90 people killed in 4 days of fighting in Somalia

Islamic militiamen and secular fighters battled Wednesday for control of Somalia's capital despite promises of a cease-fire, as the death toll rose to at least 90, with nearly 200 others wounded.

The sounds of heavy weapons echoed through the city, but the fighting was not as intense as it had been in the previous three days. The battle between the Islamic Court Union and the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism has centered on the northern neighborhood of Sii-Sii, with neither side gaining an advantage.

"Despite the Islamic courts' unilateral cease fire, there are no traces of an end to the hostilities," said Abdi Kariin, a foreign exchange dealer.

Islamic Court Union chairman Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed said Tuesday that his group would observe a cease-fire from late Tuesday. His rivals, however, were suspicious of the plan and leaders only said that they would discuss the cease-fire offer.

"The Islamists have ran out of ammunition, so they want to get breathing space for mobilization and rearming their militia," Hussein Gutaale, spokesman of the secular militias, said Tuesday.

Somalia has had no effective central government since 1991, when warlords ousted longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other _ carving this nation of an estimated 8 million people into a patchwork of anarchic, clan-based fiefdoms. A U.N.-backed transitional government has based itself in the central city of Baidoa, but has so far failed to assert itself elsewhere.

Islamic fundamentalists have portrayed themselves as an alternative capable of bringing order and peace, but they have not hesitated to use force and have allegedly linked up with al-Qaida terrorists.

The secular Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism militia and the Islamic Court Union militia have been squaring off for several weeks to stake out strategic positions in preparation for a larger battle for control of Mogadishu.

Most of the victims in the most recent fighting were civilians caught in the crossfire, reports the AP.


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