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Clashes Return to Somali Capital


At least eight people have died in renewed fighting in the Somali capital Mogadishu. Islamist insurgents and pro-government forces have clashed repeatedly since insurgents launched an offensive last month.

After a few days of relative calm, government soldiers and their allies attacked a police station in northern Mogadishu that had been captured earlier by radical Islamist insurgents.

A member of Somalia's parliament, Salad Ali Jeelle, described the battle, which began late Sunday and continued Monday.

He said the Yaqshid District police station had been held by insurgent groups. But government forces, with cooperation from local residents, regained control of the station.

A least three people were killed in the fighting.

Later in the day, five policemen died when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in southern Mogadishu. One local human rights organization put the toll from fighting during the past two days at 38.

On May 8, insurgents from the al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam militias stepped up their attacks on government soldiers and allied militias in the capital. More than 200 people have been killed in the latest round of fighting, and the United Nations says more than 62,000 have been displaced from their homes.

President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who took office in January, is himself a former Islamist insurgent leader and many of those defending his government are members of Islamist militias.

But the insurgents now reject President Sharif as too moderate, despite his efforts to introduce Islamic law in the country. They say he is too close to the United States and Ethiopia.

Ethiopian troops withdrew from Somalia in January after a two-year occupation though residents near the town of Beledweyne, near the border, say Ethiopian troops have been patrolling on the Somali side of the border in recent weeks.

Somalia's government has accused Eritrea of backing the insurgents, and the African Union has asked the United Nations to impose sanctions on Eritirea.

The insurgents are also calling for the departure of roughly 4,300 African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu. The African Union says it is overwhelmed and is calling for the United Nations to take over peacekeeping efforts. The United Nations says it supports the idea, but that for now the security situation remains too dangerous.

An international meeting to discuss Somalia is scheduled for June 9 and 10 in Rome.

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