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U.N. launches new wave of attacks in Somalia

In its biggest single offensive operation since the Korean War, the United Nations today struck a second heavy blow at the Somali warlord accused of masterminding a fatal ambush of U.N. peacekeepers.

Following up on Saturday's air and ground strikes, U.S. AC-130 gunships slammed round after round of 105mm shells into an area near the residence of Gen. Mohamed Farrah Aidid beginning about 12:45 a.m. (5:45 p.m. EDT Saturday).

It was not immediately clear whether the target was Aidid's house, that of one of his chief supporters or a possible arms cache nearby. The shelling, which continued for about 20 minutes, set off explosions on the ground, suggesting that an arms stockpile had been hit.

Private aid agencies near the scene reported by radio that it appeared the home of Aidid, that of his chief financial backer, Osman Otto, and a nearby storage area all had been hit.

The first raids were directed at the warlord's radio station and four of his known weapons storage sites on the outskirts of the city.

Pentagon officials said a block-by-block hunt for Aidid was under way but that U.S. troops were not participating in the search. An Aidid aide was captured by Italian troops, according to the Italian Defense Ministry. The ministry did not release details on the arrest or the name of the aide.

The weekend assaults are in retaliation for Aidid's alleged masterminding of two ambushes on June 5 in which 23 Pakistani peacekeeping troops were killed.

The ambushes sent a jolt of fear through foreign civilians who are in Somalia to help the country recover from famine and anarchy. Hundreds of them left the country after the ambush, closing relief centers and leaving countless Somalis hungry.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, said Saturday: "The object of the operation is to restore law and order. The U.N. is trying since the beginning of the operation to bring some peace to a developing country."

U.N. officials have blamed Aidid for inciting violence against the more than 18,000 peacekeepers in the country. Aidid has denied ambushing the Pakistanis.

After Saturday's air assault, stone-throwing demonstrators marched toward U.N. headquarters but were scattered by gunfire from Pakistani forces. At least one person was killed.

A defiant spokesman for Aidid warned that the attack would lead to more unrest. And a Somali radio broadcast hurled abuse at the U.N. troops, calling them "imperialist boot-lickers."

Despite that, the U.N. intends to continue its campaign against the warlord.

"We want to move on aggressively and disarm" Aidid's forces, Koffi Annan, the U.N. undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations, said in New York after the second attack began. "We have identified several dumps, some of them declared, others clandestine and we want to destroy the weapons in these dumps."

"And we'll keep on doing it until they've been destroyed," he said.

In Washington, President Clinton said the allied troops suffered no casualties. He said the attack was "essential to send a clear message to the armed gangs" in Somalia.

Secretary of State Warren Christopher, speaking in Istanbul, Turkey, said the city's radio tower, water reservoir and cigarette factory were destroyed.

"The operation seems at this point a success," he said.

The cigarette factory was used as a firing position by Somalis in the ambush of the Pakistani company while it was on a routine inspection of a nearby arms storage site.

Turkish Lt. Gen. Cevik Bir, chief of U.N. troops in Somalia, said weapons were stored at the radio station, which was destroyed. He said the attack began before dawn to avoid civilian casualties.

Despite capturing tons of ammunition, tanks, artillery pieces and other military hardware, U.N. officials acknowledged Aidid may have plenty more hidden away.

"He's not out of business, but I bet he's pretty shaky today," said U.S. Maj. Gen. Thomas Montgomery, deputy commander of the more than 18,000 U.N. peacekeepers in Somalia.

Montgomery said the Somalis detained in the raids included women and children. The three main hospitals in southern Mogadishu reported four dead Somalis and at least 20 wounded.

Only one of the dead was thought to be killed in the military strikes. The other victims died or were injured in clashes with peacekeepers later in the day.

The Pentagon said the U.N. attack was carried out by three AC-130H "Spectre" gunships, four AH-1W "Cobra" attack helicopters, and ground forces from some half-dozen countries, including the United States.

The U.S. unit, designated as a quick-reaction force, comprises 1,200 soldiers from the Army's 10th Mountain light infantry division. There are some 3,300 other U.S. military personnel in Somalia, but they did not take part in the weekend's operation, officials said.

The U.N. special envoy to Somalia, retired Adm. Jonathan Howe, said his forces would mount a nation-wide campaign to disarm the gunmen who have created havoc in famine-stricken Somalia.

"Disarmament has started in earnest. It is an ambitious task, but it must be done and it will be done," Howe said.

Howe said he had received no order to arrest Aidid, who regards himself as Somalia's president-in-waiting, but he hinted that action could be taken as a result of investigations into the killing of the 23 Pakistanis.

Tools of the Mogadishu attacks

AC-130H Spectre

This gunship, with a 14-member crew, is among the most formidable attack aircraft in the Air Force's arsenal, capable of laying waste to a city block with a burst of cannon fire. It features 105mm recoilless gun, 40mm cannon and two 20mm Vulcan guns. It also is equipped with senors and target-acquisition systems, including forward-looking infared and TV sensors.

Bell AH-1 Cobra

This two-seat helicopter has a laser rangefinder and infared sensor system. Its armored fuselage panels protect the pilot and gunner positions. It fires TOW anti-tank missiles and has a 20mm three-barreled cannon.

Today's attack

12:45 a.m. Dozens of explosions rock the capital as the U.N. launches new aerial attacks on warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid. The firing appeared to be directed at Aidid's compound.

Saturday's attack

1 a.m. Indian navy commences coastal patrols of Mogadishu.

3:55 a.m. U.S. infantry, part of Quick Reaction Force, deploys near Aidid's radio station on outskirts of the city.

4 a.m. U.N. ground forces supported by AC-130 Spectre aircraft and helicopter gunships begin assault on Aidid arms depots and the radio station.

7:30 a.m. Radio station is knocked off air.

7:35 a.m. French armored forces relieve elements of the U.S. Quick Reaction infantry.

11 a.m. Cobra helicopter gunships and AC-130 Spectre planes return to ground after sorties around the city.

1 p.m. U.N. Special envoy to Somalia Jonathan Howe gives first account of operation, calling mission a success.