Somalia's parliament gives OK for martial law

From Associated Press

Somalia's acting parliament authorized martial law Saturday as the fledgling government struggled to assert authority over a country that has known little but clan warfare and chaos for more than 15 years.

The vote will allow the U.N.-backed government to impose a state of emergency for as long as three months in this Horn of Africa nation, deputy parliament Speaker Osman Ilmi Boqore said during a legislative session broadcast live on a state-owned radio station.

The vote came as government troops and allied Ethiopian soldiers began house-to-house weapons searches near the airport in Mogadishu, the capital.

A few hours later, Ethiopian jets bombed at least one village in the south, killing three people, a traditional elder reported. Government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari said he had heard reports of airstrikes but did not have any details.

Ethiopian forces, which helped Somalian government troops defeat an Islamic militia that had controlled much of southern Somalia since summer, do not speak to journalists in Mogadishu.

Boqore, the parliament speaker, said 154 legislators voted in favor of letting the government impose martial law. He said two lawmakers voted against the motion.

The rest of Somalia's 275 lawmakers were not at the session in Baidoa, a western town that had been the 2-year-old interim government's stronghold until the Islamic militia was routed in an offensive that began Dec. 24.

Dinari, the government spokesman, said he did not know when President Abdullahi Yusuf would sign the decree to impose martial law.

Information Minister Ali Ahmed Jama has said the measure was needed because of widespread insecurity in the country, which has been without an effective government since clan warlords toppled a dictator in 1991 and then turned on one another.

Opposing lawmakers said too many Somalis were armed to impose strict order right now.

On Friday, at least eight people were killed and six were wounded when rival clan militias fought over pasture and water for their livestock 90 miles northwest of Mogadishu, elders and residents said by telephone.

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