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Somalis appear indifferent to attack

Many Somalis welcomed air strikes Saturday that destroyed weapons stashes of one of the country's key warlords as a step toward breaking the power of Somalia's militia leaders.

But elsewhere in Mogadishu, there was dissent.

Hours after the strike, about 200 stone-throwing protesters marched along Mogadishu's main street toward the compound that houses the U.N. headquarters. Pakistani troops opened fire on the crowd, killing two people.

And angry protesters gathered at the destroyed radio station of warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the target of the U.S.-led air strike.

Protests, however, were scattered. More prevalent was an apparent ambivalence. Somalis said they neither strongly supported the United Nations nor staunchly opposed Aidid.

There had been fears that military action against Aidid would touch off violent uprisings against U.N. troops, who blamed him for staging an ambush last week that killed 23 Pakistani soldiers on June 5.

Instead, many Somalis said they welcomed any step, including military strikes, to end the conflict that has wrecked their lives and country.

As the sun rose, residents appeared in the streets as usual to sip tea under the trees or shop in the market stalls.

"It is .05 percent, .0005 percent, of the people who are against the United Nations, because before the United Nations moved in we had no food, we were starving," said Aden Mohamed Ali, a translator.

"Some are neutral like me _ I hate everybody," said Mohamoud Hussein Jumale. "I hate the faction leaders, but also the United Nations for bombing us.

"Just to get rid of one faction leader is no big deal. They need to go house to house, from here to Bosasso (more than 1,000 miles to the north) and then maybe things will be okay."

Added Hassan Agahle Abledoor: "It will be useless if they do not hit all the factions."

In the vacuum created by the overthrow of dictator Mohammed Siad Barre in January 1991, at least half a dozen warlords emerged to battle for land, wealth and power in this lawless east African country.

Like many of the Somalis working as drivers, translators or guards for foreigners in Mogadishu, Jumale and Abledoor had promising careers before the government's collapse and the two years of clan warfare.

Jumale was a forest ranger for the Agriculture Ministry, and Abledoor a mechanic.

One of the few Somalis expressing anger at the air strikes was Hassan Farrah Ibar, a nurse at Benaadir Hospital, where 20 Somalis injured in clashes Saturday were taken for treatment.

Two of them died, including a 21-year-old woman who was six months pregnant.

As the woman's husband stood nearby, Ibar shook his head and accused the United Nations of overstepping its boundaries for the sake of pride. "The United Nations is shooting everyone now because it wants to get back its honor," he said. "Innocent people will die to avenge the deaths of those Pakistanis."