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Islamic Group Claims Control Over Somali Capital


An Islamic group Monday said it has taken control of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, following weeks of fighting with an alliance of warlords. Cathy Majtenyi files this report from VOA's East Africa bureau in Nairobi.

A top official with the city's Islamic Courts Union declared on local radio stations that his group had defeated forces from the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism.

A founding member of the warlord alliance, Mohamed Afrah Qanyare, who until Sunday was the national security minister in Somalia's transitional government, is said to have fled the city with his fighters to nearby Jowhar, some 90 kilometers north of the capital.

A reporter with the French news agency, Ali Musa Abdi, who is in Mogadishu, tells VOA the capital was relatively calm Monday as the Islamic courts claimed their victory.

"Generally, they have taken most parts of Mogadishu," he said. "The remaining parts are very little and in the hands of their rivals and their rivals are not in a position to fight. The roadblocks and checkpoints [of Qanyare] have been dismantled. They are not really in full control at this stage, but they are in control of the vast majority of Mogadishu, and the other parts are also coming slowly in their favor."

More than 300 people were killed and more than a thousand wounded during fierce fighting that took place over the past few months between militias loyal to the Islamic Court Union and the warlord alliance.

Somali political leaders had accused the United States of backing the warlords, a charge U.S. officials have refused to confirm or deny.

The Islamic Court Union is said to want to maintain law and order in the volatile capital.

Reporter Abdi says the Islamic courts Sunday described to journalists how they intend to govern the capital.

"They said they want to administer the city not only by themselves, [but] by talking to the intellectuals and other Somali people, and they invited the people to join them," he said. "They are planning their own administration, while the transitional national government already has appointed a governor and city mayor who should be running that city."

There have been more than a dozen attempts to form a central government in Somalia since civil war broke out in 1991.

A transitional Somali parliament was formed in Kenya more than a year ago, following a two-year peace process.

On Sunday, Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi fired national security minister Qanyare and three other ministers - Musa Sudi Yalahow, Issa Botan Alin, and Omar Muhamoud Finnish - for their involvement in the Mogadishu fighting.

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