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News Briefs 2

Somalis Not Starving But Not Coalescing

The Washington Post

Markets are flourishing across Somalia, local governing councils have sprouted, and refugees are returning home to find solid supplies of food. But many Somalis cannot afford the food when it goes on sale in the markets. The refugees are returning to villages and towns razed in four years of civil war. Local administrations face the constant threat of power-hungry warlords, who operate without a national government to rein them in.

One poor harvest could catapult the country toward a food crisis of the kind that has vexed Somalia for decades.

As 6 million people battle to rebuild their country more than seven month after a United Nations force pulled out, Somalia is better off in many respects, according to reports here from relief workers and diplomats.

But it remains as politically unstable and as econmically fragile as it was when foreign troops left -- their campaign to restore order and alleviate famine having broken down into periodic skirmishing with Somalia's clan-based militias.

"The problem is that an area may be relatively secure and stable today, but that may not be the case tomorrow," one U.N. official said.

Clan conflicts, which killed tens of thousands at the height of the civil war, have ebbed, according to officials. But the battles for power among the country's principal militia leader, Mohamed Farah Aideed, and his chief rivals, Ali Mahdi Mohamed and Osman Ato, threaten to keep Somalia mired in political chaos for the long term, they say.

5 Agents Fired as Border Patrol Tries to Improve Agency

Los Angeles Times

In its sternest disciplinary action in recent history, the U.S. Border Patrol has moved to fire five agents in a case that began with an agent hitting an illegal immigrant on the head with a rock and escalated into a conspiracy to cover up the incident, officials said Monday.

The case also resulted in a campaign of harassment against a rookie agent who told the truth, underscoring the difficulties of investigating wrongdoing in the tightknit brotherhood of border agents.

The multiple dismissals are apparently intended to send a message that the Border Patrol is rooting out rogue officers and professionalizing its image.

"It's important to put everyone on notice: there are some things which you cannot do and continue to be a U.S. Border Patrol agent," said Depty Chief William T. Veal, who declined to discuss particulars or identify the agents because of potential appeals. "I am very concerned about the nature of the misconduct."

The incident occurred Nov. 18, 1993, when six agents from the Chula Vista, Calif., station chased seven border-crossers into a marsh and hurled rocks at them to flush them out, according to law enforcement sources. An illegal immigrant, Marco Antonio Cardenas Ruiz, suffered a bloody head wound that later required stitches, authorities said. The agents abruptly left the scene and, in a strange role reversal, the injured Cardenas went to a nearby store and called the San Diego Police to complain.