Elders, others try to mediate cease-fire in Somalia

Clan elders and the mayor of Somalia's capital struggled Wednesday to mediate an end to fighting between rival militias that has killed at least 22 people and wounded more than 140 since Saturday.

Clan elders met Tuesday and appointed representatives to mediate a cease-fire deal between the warring parties, a new Somali alliance of warlords and armed businessmen against forces under the command of Islamic clerics in Mogadishu. One analyst was concerned the violence was a significant deterioration for an already chaotic country.

Islamic fundamentalists are increasingly projecting themselves as an alternative to the numerous armed groups running the patchwork of clan-based fiefdoms. But members of the new alliance have described the fundamentalists as terrorists, accusing them of killing moderate intellectuals, Muslim scholars and former military officials in a string of unexplained murders.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991, when warlords overthrew the government and divided the country into rival, clan-based fiefdoms.

Mogadishu was quiet Wednesday, but there were fears that the two sides are using the lull to regroup and bring in reinforcements.

The mediators were trying to determine their terms for a cease-fire deal, clan elder Ugad Abdi Dahir told The Associated Press.

A member of a Brussels-based group that tracks conflicts around the world said the outbreak of fighting in Mogadishu did not appear to be the typical brief clash between militias.

"It is shaping up to be something more serious," Matt Bryden of the International Crisis Group said late Tuesday, reports the AP.


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