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Monday, July 10, 2006

Islamic militiamen attack Somali rivals

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP)- Islamic militiamen rooting out resistance in the capital battled supporters of a secular warlord in door-to-door fighting Sunday that left 20 people dead and 40 wounded, witnesses and doctors said.

The Islamic fighters who wrested Mogadishu from warlords last month fired mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades at supporters of Adbi Awale Qaybdiid, who refused to disarm after the U.S.-backed secular alliance lost control of the capital.

Hundreds of people fled their homes to escape the fighting.

"We were trapped inside our home for three hours, we could not even stand up," because of stray bullets, said Said Yahye, who eventually fled his house with his three sons.

Doctors said at least 20 dead and 40 wounded were taken to four hospitals in Mogadishu. At least four other bodies lay on the ground, witnesses said.

Somalia's largely powerless U.N.-backed secular interim government said the radical Islamic group must stop attacks if they want to join talks on restoring law and order in Mogadishu.

"They have to renounce violence for them to participate in the meeting. For them to think they can grab power by the barrel of the gun and then to come to that meeting, that is a contradiction," said Ismail Hurreh, a deputy prime minister.

Somalia has been without an effective government since warlords overthrew its longtime dictator in 1991 and divided the nation into fiefdoms.

In the absence of an effective central government, Islamic fundamentalists have stepped into the vacuum as an alternative military and political power.

The Islamic militiamen have grown increasingly radical since they seized the capital, forbidding movies, television and music in line with their strict interpretation of Islam.

A recent recruiting video issued by the militia showed foreign militants fighting alonside them, and invited Muslims from around the world to join in their "holy jihad."
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