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Somalia troops shut radio station

  • Story Highlights
  • No reason has been given for the closure, the station reports
  • Residents, witnesses, journalists accuse Ethiopian, Somali troops of random firing
  • U.N. relief agencies: 100,000 people have fled Mogadishu since late October
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(CNN) -- Somalia's transitional government shut down the independent Shabelle Radio network Monday, amid a new push by government troops and their Ethiopian allies to put down an insurgency, network managers reported.

Heavily armed troops entered the broadcaster's headquarters in Mogadishu about 11:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m. ET) and forced it off the air, ordering journalists out the building, Shabelle Radio reported on it Web site. Soldiers briefly held the news director and acting manager, then released them.

"No reason has been said to the closure of Shabelle, but they claimed that is an order from senior government officials," the station reported.

The closure marks the eighth time Somali authorities shut down Shabelle, according to the network. It comes days after intense fighting between insurgents and the Ethiopian forces that drove them out of the war-torn capital last year.

About 100,000 people have fled Mogadishu since late October, joining more than 700,000 others displaced around the country, U.N. relief agencies estimate.

Residents, witnesses and journalists accuse Ethiopian and Somali troops of firing indiscriminately in revenge for attacks last week that left several troops dead. An Ethiopian soldier's body was dragged through the dusty streets of one neighborhood.

Between 60 and 80 people, many of them civilians, were killed in clashes between soldiers and insurgents last week. The troops seized control of Mogadishu's largest public market on Saturday.

Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia in December 2006 to drive out the Islamic Courts Union from Mogadishu and restore the U.N.-backed transitional government after a decade and a half of near-anarchy. In response, the Islamist extremists launched an insurgency against the Somali government and Ethiopian troops, who have made only "limited progress" against them, according to a U.N. report last week.

After the invasion, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi promised his troops would remain in Somalia only a few weeks, and he dismissed fears his army would become bogged down in a guerrilla war. But an African Union peacekeeping mission has never been fully manned, and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned the Security Council last week that an Ethiopian withdrawal would be unlikely until conditions improve.

"Given the complex security situation in Somalia, it may be advisable to look at additional security options, including the deployment of a robust multinational force or coalition of the willing," the secretary-general's office wrote in a Security Council report. A small force "could be built to a level that would enable Ethiopian forces to commence a partial, then complete withdrawal from the country," he reported.

The United States has accused the ICU of harboring suspected al Qaeda figures, including three men wanted in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and raised no objections to the invasion. Washington has long been concerned that Somalia could turn into a safe haven for terrorists, but ICU leaders deny harboring al Qaeda suspects. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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