Fighting between Somali transitional government forces backed by Ethiopian troops and insurgents in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, has reportedly killed several hundred people. Four days of fighting earlier in April claimed as many as one-thousand lives. According to the United Nations, more than three-hundred-thousand of Mogadishu's two-million residents have fled. Many of them are now camped outside the city in squalid conditions with little food.
The latest fighting has pitted Ethiopian troops supporting Somalia's transitional administration against forces of two major clan factions and extremist remnants of the Council of Islamic Courts that collapsed when Ethiopia intervened in December. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer said that Somalia's government should sit down with clan leaders to negotiate a cessation of hostilities:
"I think it's very clear that the key to solving the situation in Somalia and stabilizing it is to have this inclusive dialogue. And so trying to get the Transitional Federal Government to reach out to the various clans and sub-clans is a large part of our diplomacy."
Ms. Frazer said Eritrea is supporting Islamist insurgents in Somalia:
"Eritrea has not been playing a constructive role in Somalia because they continue to fund, arm, train and advise the insurgents, especially the al-Shabaab militia."
Assistant Secretary of State Frazer said that the al-Shabaab militia is trying to undermine security and the chances for a successful political dialogue. The al-Shabaab militia was the most radical element of the Council of Islamic Courts and is believed to have maintained linkages with al-Qaida operatives in Somalia.
The United States will continue to urge dialogue among all key Somalia stakeholders to reach a ceasefire, resume the political process outlined by the Transitional Federal Charter, and isolate the remaining extremist elements. The U.S. will also press for African or United Nations peacekeeping forces to be deployed to Somalia to help bring about stability. The United States has written two letters to the Transitional Federal Government leadership to allow U-N agencies to resume humanitarian activities and allow humanitarian assistance to reach Somalis affected by the fighting.
During her April 7th visit to Somalia, Assistant Secretary of State Frazer urged the Transitional Federal Government leadership to engage in dialogue with the Somali people in seeking a lasting peace and sustainable political solution.