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Jubilant rebels in Somalia have claimed victory and promised a new start for the country after Somalia Dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre fled the capital Mogadishu in a tank.

Below is a digitized version of an article titled “Barre flees, Somali rebels seize control” which was appeared the front page of the Kenyan newspaper The Star, in Monday, January 28, 1991, before the start of online publication.


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Barre flees, Somali rebels seize control

The Star, Monday, January 28, 1991

Jubilant rebels in Somalia have claimed victory and promised a new start for the country after President Mohamed Siyad Barre fled the capital Mogadishu in a tank.

The whereabouts of Siyad Barre, in power for 21 years, are unknown, but unconfirmed reports said he had fled southwards yesterday, accompanied by remnants of his presidential guard.

An official of the international medical charity Medecins Sans Frentieces, said Mogadishu was quiet after four weeks of intense fighting that has claimed hundreds of lives.

The official, Stephan van Praet, said Mr. Barre had fled in a tank 15 minutes before rebels overran the presidential palace.

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In London, a spokesman for the rebel United Somali Congress (USC), which brought the battle to oust Mr. Barre to the capital on December 10, said his group would shortly name an interim government.

Ali Hassan Hussein, contacted at the USC’s London office from Nairobi by telephone, said the new government would include representatives from two other main rebel groups, the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM) and the Somali National Movement (SNM).

The three clan-based groups formed an alliance last August and were joined 10 days later by two other less well-known rebel organization, the Somali Democratic Movement and the Somali Democratic Alliance.

“The USC, the SPM, and the SNM are going to form the transitional government because those were the three groups that fought Mr. Siyad Barre,” he said.

Mr. Ali Hassan said the rebels took Mogadishu international airport, the last remaining enclave of loyalist forces, yesterday afternoon.

He said the USC would shortly issue an appeal for humanitarian aid. Mogadishu’s population has received very little food since the fighting began.

Water and electricity was cut off soon after the rebel onslaught began and telex and telephone links were also cut.

Mr. van Praet said volunteers from his organization, contacted by satellite telephone from the Kenyan city of Mombasa, also reported the city quiet for the first time in several weeks.

Mr. Barre, now about 80, took power in a bloodless coup in 1969. He began his rule of Somalia, an impoverished country in the Horn of Africa, with promises to end clan rivalries that have bedeviled the region for centuries.

He then launched the nation into an ill-fated war against neighboring Ethiopia in 1977 to regain a “lost province”.

As his rule persisted, Western human rights groups accused Mr. Barre’s security forces of killing hundreds of Somalis and imprisoning and torturing thousands of others.

In 1988 the northern Isaaq clan rebelled under the standard of the Somali National Movement. Retaliation was savage. The human rights group, Africa Watch, estimates 50,000 people, mainly civilians, were killed.

Mr. Barre’s support came to be limited to his own Marehan clan – numbering about one percent of Somalia’s eight million people. The USC, made up largely of the Hawiye clan, had been inactive until last year in August, when its forces started taking central Somalia towns.

The current round of fighting erupted in the capital on 10 December. The USC has promised multi-party democracy, free elections and some form of regional clan autonomy. Sapa-Reuter-The Independent News Service.

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