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Somalia street battles rage for sixth day, 126 dead

Written by: Staff

Mogadishu, May 12 : Islamic fighters and warlord militias battled for control of the Somali capital for the sixth day today with the death toll approaching at least 130 in the worst violence in a decade.

The Islamic side said five people had died in overnight fighting, bringing the death toll to at least 126 as street battles spread beyond Mogadishu's battered northern shanty town of Siisii into the neighbouring district of Yaqshid.

Warlord spokesman Hussein Gutale Rage said the death toll had reached 150 but this could not be immediately verified.

Hundreds of people have been wounded in the clashes, which started on Sunday, with shells regularly hitting houses and killing many civilians, including women and children.

The rivals in the failed Horn of Africa state used artillery, mortars and anti-aircraft missiles in the fighting, which analysts see as a proxy battleground for al Qaeda and Washington, which is widely believed to be funding the warlords.

This week's Mogadishu street battles were the third round this year between gunmen allied to Islamic courts and militia from a self-styled anti-terrorist alliance of powerful warlords.

''There has been some sporadic fighting last night in Yaqshid. I understand five people died, three of them were civilians,'' Siyad Mohamed, a militia leader linked to the Islamic side, told Reuters by telephone from the area.

''It's very hard to count the wounded but the number is definitely high.'' Warlord spokesman Rage said: ''Fighting continued last night in Siisii, it's still raging on now. We will continue defending ourselves as long as the Islamic courts are on the offensive.'' Resident Abdifatah Abdikadir said the Islamic side was broadcasting radio messages urging residents to take up arms.

''The Islamic courts are urging residents to come forward and wage Jihad against the alliance,'' Abdikadir said.

Washington has long viewed Somalia, without an effective central government since 1991, as a terrorist haven.

Somalia's interim President Abdullahi Yusuf accuses Washington of backing the warlords' ''Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism''.


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