Aidid rival fears war after U.S. troops leave Clans appear to be rearming


MOGADISHU, Somalia -- Mogadishu's other warlord, enraged that America has abandoned the fight against his archenemy, is warning of renewed clan warfare in Somalia after U.S. troops leave.

"Civil war is imminent," said Ali Mahdi Mohamed after meeting yesterday with a U.S. Embassy official who underlined America's new Somalia policy to him in a message from Robert Oakley, the former U.S. envoy to Somalia and now President Clinton's special representative here.

The meeting with Mr. Ali Mahdi, called at Mr. Oakley's request, reflected widespread concern in U.S. and U.N. circles that Somalia's clan-based factions appear to be rearming for war.

U.S. and U.N. officials say that weapons stockpiles, buried when U.S. Marines landed in Mogadishu last December, are being dug up and moved into Mogadishu.

The thrust of Mr. Oakley's message was that America is no longer prepared to fight fugitive warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid and that Somalis opposed to him must now refocus their efforts on achieving political reconciliation.

Messrs. Ali Mahdi and Aidid both belong to the same Hawiyeh clan but to different subclans. They both worked to overthrow the hated Mohamed Siad Barre, in 1991, but fell out later over who should replace Mr. Siad Barre as president.

"Clan animosity is still there," Mr. Ali Mahdi said. "Aidid with his heavy weapons is still there. By the time the international community leaves, this will flare up."

Powerful U.S. reinforcements have begun arriving in Mogadishu to support the 4,900 already here. U.S. military officials formally announced the formation of a Joint Task Force Somalia, which will include 5,200 Army soldiers and 3,500 Marines backed by armor and artillery.

At least 1,200 of the troops already have arrived, and a carrier battle group and two Marine Expeditionary Units are positioned offshore.

But U.S. military officials have made it clear the role of the force will be to back up existing U.S. forces in Mogadishu and not to take an active role in pacifying Mogadishu.

The 400-member Ranger Task Force dispatched to Mogadishu in August to help arrest Mr. Aidid began leaving yesterday, underlining that the hunt for Mr. Aidid is over.

[Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali flew to the inland city of Baidoa today, avoiding the troubled city of Mogadishu, James Jonah, the U.N. Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs, told Reuters.]

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