'Hundreds dead' in Somalia clashes

Human rights group says 565 were wounded in recent Mogadishu fighting.

    Somalis are continuing to flee the capital [AFP]
    'Resistance'
     
    Meanwhile, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a senior member of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), said the group was "part of the Somali people's resistance", and would defeat Ethiopian forces.
     
    In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera, Ahmed said that the Ethiopian "occupation" of Somalia had increased support for the group.
     

    Shiekh Sharif Ahmed says the UIC wants
    negotiations to resolve the crisis [AFP]

    But he refused to say whether the UIC had been involved in the recent clashes.
     
    Sharif said the UIC was prepared to negotiate with the interim government, but only after the withdrawal of all Ethiopian troops and a ceasefire.
     
    After shelling and gun-battles that destroyed whole parts of Mogadishu, two days of relative calm have brought some relief to the capital's residents.
     
    But many people are still trying to escape and nearly 50,000 people have fled the city in the last 10 days, the UN said.
     
    On Tuesday, fighters linked to clan militia and the UIC remained dug in behind sand banks and in the alleys of Mogadishu, witnesses said.
     
    Ethiopian and Somali soldiers were watching them from positions close by.
     
    Diplomatic move
     
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    Diplomats from the US, Europe and Africa were also due to meet in Cairo on Tuesday under the auspices of the International Contact Group on Somalia to try to press the parties to agree a peace deal.
     
    A small African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in Somalia of some 1,200 Ugandan soldiers has failed to stem the violence.
     
    Many believe that it has encouraged violence by providing a highly visible "foreign" target.
     
    Eritrea said on Tuesday it had urged Uganda to pull out of Somalia after taking the "hasty step" of sending peacekeepers there.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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