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Friday, January 19, 2007

Timket celebrators fill streets of Addis; calls for release of prisoners of conscience reported

Also in the news: [Mortars hit Somali presidential palace as Gunmen attack] - [Conflict in the Horn of Africa: The streets of Mogadishu] - [African Union to deploy peacekeepers ]

International: [White House Confirms Chinese Anti-Satellite Weapon Test] - [U.S. forces arrest aide to cleric al-Sadr] - [Killer winds rip into eastern Europe] - [Colbert and O'Reilly visit each others shows] and more of today's top stories!

Timket is the Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of Epiphany and includes a special commemoration of Jesus Christ's baptism by John the Baptist - where Holy water is sprayed on worshipers.

Orthodox worshipers are sprayed with holy water during the annual Timkat festival, at 'Jan Meda,' a park in the centre of the capital Addis Ababa January 19, 2007. REUTERS/Andrew Heavens

Ethiopian Orthodox deacons pray during religious celebrations in Addis Ababa.(AFP/Marco Longari)

Mortars hit Somali presidential palace as Gunmen attack

MOGADISHU, Somalia (January 19, 2007 Friday) - Government troops battled gunmen who attacked the Somali president's palace in central Mogadishu Friday night, spreading panic around the capital.

The attackers fired three mortars into the presidential compound and then engaged guards in a 30-minute firefight, residents said. The president and prime minister were in Mogadishu, but their whereabouts were unclear and government officials did not immediately answer their phones.

Khadra Dahir Osman, who lives next to the presidential compound, which occupies a hill overlooking Mogadishu, said he fled to his brother's home, panic-stricken.

The internationally recognized government — with key military backing from Ethiopia — had managed to drive an Islamic movement that had challenged it for power out of Mogadishu and much of the rest of southern Somalia. But the potential for violence remains great because of clan rivalries, resentment of the government's Ethiopian backers and a threat of guerrilla war from remnants of the Islamic movement.(More...)

Also see: BBC: Gunfire at Somali leader's home

Orthodox Epiphany (Timket) fills streets of Ethiopia capital

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) - A sea of faithful resplendently dressed in white have filled the streets of the Ethiopian capital to celebrate the annual Epiphany, or the baptism of Jesus Christ.

Jubilant crowds from Addis Ababa's 13 Orthodox Churches descended on city streets for the religious ritual, locally known as "Timkat", marked on the 11th day of the fifth month in accordance with the Orthodox calender.

Children, adorned in the national red, orange and green colours, walked alongside white-veiled adults as they belted out hymns and beat drums. The priests from the hexagonal churches and the monks and nuns wore their most ornate robes and habits.(More...)

EZ: Protestors call for the release of political prisoners

A crowd of young people celebrating the Holy Epiphany denounced EPRDF's rule. The protestors shouted slogans, which called for the release of Kinijit leaders and other political prisoners in front of the palace. A few demonstrators were heard chanting, "Woyane is thief!" as palace guards watch them alertly.

The celebrations were low key this year with thousands of people preferring to stay at home, opposing the political partisanship of the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. (Source)

Conflict in the Horn of Africa: The streets of Mogadishu

After a brief taste of stability under the Islamic Courts, a new conflict is spreading. Steve Bloomfield reports from the city where civil war has become a way of life

January 19, 2007 - Standing amid a pile of rubble on a Mogadishu street corner two young men, faces covered by red scarves, loaded their rocket propelled grenade launchers. Three spare grenades and an AK-47 were slung over their backs.

By their feet lay a box containing a remote-controlled mine similar to the improvised explosive devices that have proved so deadly to British and American soldiers in Iraq. A second pair of similarly armed men stood at another junction 200 yards down the road; two further pairs were stationed nearby.

Watching the fighters take up position in the Black Sea area of southern Mogadishu, 37-year-old tea shop owner, Nuuro Mohammed Diirive, called for a "resistance" to drive Ethiopian troops out.

"Somalia has been confiscated by Ethiopia," she said, waving her arm in anger. "We are not free people. We are under the colonial master. We must find an army to resist them."

Mrs Diirive, a mother of seven, said Somalis should be prepared to lay down their lives to defeat Ethiopia. "We will use suicide bombing. Maybe my children will do that."

The same pattern was occurring across the battle scarred Somali capital yesterday afternoon. In the north of the city 10 masked men stood outside a mosque waving their AK-47s in the air and chanting "Allahu akbar".(More...)

African Union to deploy peacekeepers

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) - The African Union's top security body authorized the deployment of more than 7,600 peacekeepers to war-torn Somalia that officials said would begin immediately.

The AU's Peace and Security Commission decided to send nine battalions of 850 troops each to Somalia for an initial period of six months beginning Friday, a statement released after their meeting here said.

The initial deployment will be one-third that number, the AU said.

The aim of the mission, to be known as AMISOM (the African Mission to Somalia), would be to "facilitate humanitarian operations in Somalia and consolidate peace and stability in Somalia," it said.(More...)

Today's Top Stories

-White House Confirms Chinese Anti-Satellite Weapon Test
-U.S. forces arrest aide to cleric al-Sadr
-N. Korea: 'Agreement' Reached With U.S.
-Killer winds rip into eastern Europe
-Oprah Winfrey named the richest woman in entertainment
-Colbert and O'Reilly (Stephen Colbert and Bill O'Reilly visit each others shows for the first time)....[video]