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Monday, June 05, 2006


Mogadishu, 5 June (AKI) - Islamist fighters in Somalia battling an alliance of warlords - believed to be backed by Washington - say they have taken control of the strife-torn Horn of Africa country's capital, Mogadishu. Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, chairman of the Islamic Courts Union, said his forces have fought off the secular coalition, which was trying to retain its grip on Somalia. According to a BBC report, a meeting was being held Monday to discuss the surrender of fighters still loyal to the warlords. Interim Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Ghedi says his Baidoa-based government wants to begin a dialogue with them.

The capital's fall to the Islamist militia comes after weeks of intense fighting in which more than 300 people are believed to have been killed and over 1,700 wounded.

In a statement, read over local radio stations, Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed urged residents to accept the new leadership. "The Joint Islamic Courts are not interested in a continuation of hostilities and will fully implement peace and security after the change has been made by the victory of the people with the support of Allah," he added, according to the BBC.

Somalia's interim government sacked four warlord ministers late on Sunday, including security minister Mohammed Qanyare Afrah and trade minister Muse Sadi Yalahow.

The warlords have controlled the capital since they overthrew the long-time dictator, Mohamed Siad Barre, 15 years ago.

The US is rumoured to be covertly supporting the warlords alliance, seeing them as a bulwark to prevent the Islamists, from controlling the country and perhaps giving sanctuary to al-Qaeda linked groups.
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