by HAROUN M. HASSAN
Gen. Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the militia leader who helped draw Somalia into years of civil war, famine and virtual anarchy and whose forces killed 18 U.S. soldiers trying to hunt him down, has died.
Aidid, who effectively forced U.N. peacekeepers to withdraw from Somalia in humiliation, died of a heart attack Thursday, his militia said today. He reportedly had been injured by a stray bullet last week.
Thousands of weeping Somalis poured into the streets of south Mogadishu today. The mourners lined the street leading to the Al Rahma mosque, where services for the 61-year-old general were to be held. His body was to be taken to a cemetery for Muslim burial.
The radio station of Aidid's militia, the Voice of the Somali People, said the self-proclaimed Somali president died of a heart attack ''while performing his national duties.'' A United Nations official in neighboring Kenya, speaking on the condition that she not be further identified, said Aidid was wounded Medina section of southern Mogadishu and probably received two gunshot wounds, one in the shoulder and one in the liver.
On Tuesday night, the liver wound became infected, and doctors decided to operate, she said. She said it was unclear whether Aidid died during the operation, but that the heart attack could have been a result of it.
Aidid's radio station declared a 30-day mourning period and said flags in south Mogadishu would be flown at half-staff for seven days. It broadcast mourning music and messages of condolence to Aidid's family all morning. Aidid is survived by his third wife, Khadija Said Gurhan, and 14 children. The radio station said a four-member committee had been appointed to head Aidid's Hawiye clan, and that the committee would continue Aidid's policies.
The radio broadcast a statement, apparently from the new committee, calling on the soldiers of the National Army a reference to Aidid's militiamen to ''remain watchful and defend their rights.''
The Voice of the Somali Republic radio, run by Aidid's archrival Ali Mahdi Mohamed, reported Aidid's death without elaboration.
Aidid emerged as a powerful force in Somalia after the overthrow of President Mohamed Siad Barre in January 1991.
During Siad Barre's increasingly brutal 21-year reign, the Italian-trained general served in the army, cabinet and as Somalia's ambassador to India. Siad Barre named him intelligence chief, but came to suspect Aidid of plotting against him and jailed him from 1969 to 1976.
As Siad Barre's rule weakened, Aidid turned on his boss. Aidid's fighters drove the fallen leader from Mogadishu in January 1991. Shortly after, two Hawiye sub-clans one led by Ali Mahdi and the other by Aidid began quarreling over the spoils.
The power struggle carved the country of 8 million people into a collection of fiefdoms with no central government. More than 350,000 Somalis died from the fighting and famine.
Five hundred Pakistani U.N. peacekeeping troops were finally sent to Mogadishu in September 1992, but by then Aidid felt strong enough to hem them in, useless, at the airport. International demands for action grew louder. The first U.S. Marines went ashore at Mogadishu on Dec. 8, 1992. Joined by troops from other nations, Operation Restore Hope delivered food aid to famished corners of southern Somalia. The death count dropped, but the warring clans remained unreconciled. By February 1993, thousands of Somalis, incited by Aidid, were rioting against the foreigners.
The United Nations blamed Aidid for the June 5, 1993, ambushes that killed 24 Pakistani peacekeepers and wounded 59, and issued a warrant for his arrest. While Aidid repeatedly denied responsibility, he accused the U.N. forces of favoring his rivals.
In October 1993, 18 U.S. soldiers and a reported 300 Somalis were killed in fighting during an American assault on an Aidid stronghold, prompting President Clinton to speed up the withdrawal of U.S. forces.
The United States withdrew in March 1994, and the final U.N. contingent pulled out a year later.
Renewed fighting broke out this year as Aidid battled a coalition of other factions for control of southern Mogadishu. Hospitals and clinics in Mogadishu last week reported more than 100 people killed and another 400 wounded in the past month.
Somalia militia leader and self-declared president General Mohammed Farah Aidid has died after being wounded in an attack, a spokesman confirmed Friday.
Aidid died Thursday afternoon of a heart attack after several operations by an Italian doctor, the spokesman said .
However there were conflicting versions of how Aidid was wounded. Members of his own militia said in Mogadishu that he was shot during fighting at the beginning of last week.
But Aidid's representative in Washington, Ahmed Mohammed Dahma, said the death had been a "deliberate act of murder".
He told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that Aidid was seriously injured when he was attacked by members of his own militia as "the result of an international conspiracy".
The situation in Mogadishu on Friday was calm, eye-witnesses reported. Islamic dignitaries were preparing a traditional funeral due to take place later in the day.
The United Nations declared Aidid a war criminal after his militia attacked the U.N. peace force in Somalia several times in 1993.
U.S. soldiers repeatedly tried to apprehend him and 18 of them were killed when they tried to hunt him down after 23 Pakistani soldiers of the U.N. peace-keeping force (UNOSOM) were killed in an attack widely blamed on clan members. Aidid's militia and those of his rival Osman Atto have been locked in heavy fighting for control of the southern parts of the Somali capital Mogadishu in recent weeks. The northern part of the city is controlled by another clan leader, Ali Mahdi Mohammed, who has also declared himself president of Somalia.
Somalia has been wracked by civil war since Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled as dictator in 1991 when various clans laid claim for territory.
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