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Islamic Militia Take Control of Another Somali Town


Fighters loyal to Somalia's Islamic courts have seized control of another town following a major victory over warlords on Wednesday.

Witnesses say the Islamic fighters took control of Belet Weyne near the Ethiopian border without a fight Thursday.

On Wednesday, Islamic fighters seized control of Jowhar, the last stronghold of U.S.-backed warlords who lost an earlier battle for control of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.

The advance comes as the United States convenes an international meeting in New York to discuss Somalia.

The State Department says the meeting marks the start of a "contact group" that will support creation of a functioning Somali government. The East African nation has not had one for more than 15 years.

The State Department reiterated support for Somalia's U.N.-backed transitional government, which has little influence outside its base of Baidoa.

Hundreds of people demonstrated in Mogadishu Thursday against the government's plan to invite in foreign peacekeepers. A separate demonstration in favor of the peacekeeping plan took place in Baidoa.

The peacekeeping issue has stalled talks between the government and the newly-powerful Islamic Courts Union.

Participants in Thursday's meeting on Somalia include Britain, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Tanzania, and the European Union. The United Nations and the African Union have been asked to take part as observers.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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