Heavy fighting broke out in Mogadishu Friday between Somali government forces supported by African Union troops and a militia loyal to a former warlord. Security officials say more than 10 people died in the fighting and a dozen others were arrested.
Residents in the Wadajir neighborhood of southwest Mogadishu were awakened Friday by heavy gunfire.
Colonel Ali Aden Humad, a spokesman for the African Union force AMISOM, told VOA his troops and Somali forces were trying to secure an arms cache near the home of former warlord Ahmed Hassan Adow when Adow's militia attacked.
“This is a normal ongoing operation, joint policing operation around the town of Mogadishu. So what happened is when we decided to come to that target, some militia targeted at AMISOM troops,” he said.
The ex-warlord, also known as Ahmed Da’i, told VOA's Somali service the clashes began when government forces attacked his home before dawn.
The raid and security operation is thought to be part of the Somali government's recent efforts to seize weapons belonging to former warlords, politicians and businessmen, with the goal of ending the chronic armed conflict and assassinations in the capital.
At least four members of parliament have been killed in the last four months, among them the well-known Somali singer and lawmaker Saado Ali.
Militant group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks, but there has been growing fear that some of these killings are the work of militias manning checkpoints and gun depots scattered across the capital.
Security analysts say the effort to seize weapons from warlords and militias is important if the central government is to bring peace and stability to the heavily armed city.
Colonel Hamud says Ahmed Da’i's fighters were overpowered Friday.
“The situation is calm," he said. "We have arrested some of those militias. We are controlling the situation and we have seized many ammunitions and weapons in that area. We also caught some people and they are going to be investigated by Somali security forces.”
Mogadishu, like Somalia, has endured more than 20 years of chaos and violence since warlords toppled the government in 1991. The current U.N.-backed government has lasted two years, longer than any other government during that time.