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Thursday, December 21, 2006


Mogadishu, 21 Dec. (AKI) - Islamist fighters were searching small cars, buses, and trucks coming to the capital from southern provinces for weapons and explosives, in a bid to re-establish order in the capital, Mogadishu on Thursday, Somalia's Radio Shabelle reported. The station quoted the Islamists as saying heavy fighting was taking place with Ethiopian backed forces in Baidoa, southern Somalia - the seat of the weak transitional government.

Late on Wednesday, after a day of shuttle diplomacy, European Union aid chief Louis Michel told a news conference in Nairobi that the transitional government and the Islamists had agreed to resume peace talks to solve the crisis that threatens to suck in other regionals players.

"They have both decided to resume the Khartoum dialogue process unconditionally," said Michel, giving no timeframe for the Arab League-mediated talks. The announcement was in stark contrast to two days of clashes as the Islamists and government forces battled each other with rockets and heavy weapons in Baidoa and in Idaale in Bai province, south west of Baidoa.

Islamists took control of the capital early June this year and have expanded their control across much of the country, besieging the government outpost of Badoia and seeking to establish control over the south of the country.

Ethiopia and Eritrea are becoming increasingly involved in the conflict. Ethiopia has reportedly sent between 15,000 and 20,000 troops to support the Somali government while its enemy Eritrea has sent around 2,000 soldiers to help the Islamists.

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