Fighting delays Somalia peace talks

Three people killed as government forces and clan fighters clash in Mogadishu.

    A local assessment team counted 1,086 people killed in four days of fighting that began on March 29

    Trenches dug

    But the sight of Hawiye and Islamic Courts fighters digging trenches has fuelled fears of new violence.

    Malun Abdi, a Somali living close to the scene of the fighting, said she saw the bodies of two clansmen.
       
    She said: "They were still holding their AK-47s. They must have been insurgents because they were not wearing government uniform."

    Salad Ali Gele, deputy defence minister, said the government side had also suffered casualties.

    He said: "The government have lost one soldier and three other soldiers were wounded."

    Hussein Siyaad, an Hawiye elder, said: "Some of our men have been defending themselves against the government. The ceasefire has not been affected by the skirmishes."

    Siyaad said that Ethiopian forces were not involved in the clashes.  

    Government offensive

    The International Committee of the Red Cross said the recent battles were the city's worst for more than 15 years.

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    They were triggered when government and Ethiopian forces began a disarmament drive that grew into an offensive to crush opposition fighters before a planned reconciliation meeting on April 16.

    Samir Hosni, an Arab League official, said that a conference had now been postponed for a month until the middle of May because of the insecurity.

    The interim government, formed in 2004, has struggled to impose its authority over Mogadishu since defeating rival Islamic Courts leaders in a campaign in January backed by Ethiopian soldiers, tanks and aircraft.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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