A showdown between U.N. forces policing Somalia and gunmen who killed 23 Pakistani peacekeepers seemed to be moving closer Wednesday after the world body was told to restore its authority.
Unsigned leaflets appeared on the streets of Mogadishu late Tuesday advising U.N. troops to leave "our country as immediately as they can." The leaflets warned the Somali people would "fight to the last drop of our blood to safeguard ourselves and our beloved country."The threats came after a day of sporadic sniper fire at U.N. positions throughout the ruined capital and added to the general unease felt in Mogadishu, a city that has known little but violence for more than two years.
The U.N. Security Council has ordered the 24-nation peacekeeping force in the country to bring the gunmen and their leaders to justice after what it says was a planned attack Saturday on the Pakistanis.
More than 20 Somalis also died, many civilians trapped in the fighting, in one of the bloodiest incidents in the history of peace-keep-ing operations.
U.N. sources have made little secret of the fact the United Nations, fearing similar work from Bosnia to Cambodia could be put in jeopardy, plans to go after Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the warlord accused of responsibility for the killings.
Many foreign aid workers, delighted the U.N. has been forced to take on warlord power, fear action against Aidid could unleash a violent backlash by his supporters.
"It may not last very long, but it could be very unpleasant," said one. "But let's hope a chapter is about to be closed."
Somalia's warlords, backed by clan-based militias, have terrorized the Horn of Africa country since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was driven from power in January 1991.
Aidid and his Habir Gedir clansmen fought their way into Mogadishu against Siad Barre's crumbling army and have since controlled most of the sprawling capital, long ago looted of anything of value.
Several aid organizations and independent analysts have long criticized the United Nations for negotiating with Aidid and other warlords rather than disarming them and ending their rule.
But sources say the U.N. is beefing up its military presence and will not pounce until it enjoys overwhelming superiority.
American military transport planes are expected to begin flying in reinforcements, including tanks, late Wednesday.
Perhaps the most obvious sign of new security concerns was the return of AK-47s in some foreigners' vehicles. Most journalists and aid workers travel with armed guards, but handguns had been the norm since December.