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Up to 80 killed in latest Somalia fighting

Written by: Staff

NAIROBI, May 10: Up to 80 people have been killed in three days of fighting in the latest flare-up between rival militias in Mogadishu, witnesses said today, but a ceasefire declared late yesterday appeared to be holding.

The battle, which started on Sunday, was the third between gunmen allied to Islamic courts and militia linked to the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism, a coalition of powerful warlords.

''Nearly 80 people have died and 200 have been wounded. It was a street battle and only those who are strong could escape,'' Siyad Mohamed, a militia leader linked to the Islamic courts, told Reuters by telephone.

''Many women and children who could not run were killed.'' Mohamed said calm had returned after a ceasefire was declared late yesterday.

''It's much calmer today, no major battle took place,'' he said.

''(Traditional) elders have intervened and it looks like the ceasefire will hold.'' He said both sides had lost at least 20 fighters, adding the rest were civilians caught in the cross-fire in the run-down area of Siisii.

''It's hard to count the injured, they are lying in nearly all of the hospitals,'' said resident Abdifatah Abdikadir.

''At least 60 civilians have died in fighting.'' Many diplomats believe the clashes have been fuelled by US support for the warlords, who are unpopular among many citizens because their militias have victimised them or extorted money from them at checkpoints for years.

The Horn of Africa nation descended into lawlessness in 1991, when warlords ousted former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

But this year's fighting in Mogadishu has been the worst for years. Up to 90 people were killed in fighting between the rival sides in March.


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