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Somalia's Capital Rocked By Third Day of Fighting


Fighting continued Friday for the third day running in Somali's capital, Mogadishu, which has left at least 70 people dead and hundreds wounded and displaced.

Mogadishu-based peace activist Abdullahi Shirwa tells VOA the conflict is between militias aligned with two groups: what he calls the United Islamic Courts and the newly formed Restoration of Peace and Anti-Terrorist Alliance.

He described the scene in Mogadishu since Wednesday.

"Actually, the war is going on, or it started at the outskirts of the city, but the artilleries and mortar shells are coming to the city," he said. "They destroyed a lot of houses, a lot of properties and displaced many people."

Shirwa says it is unclear exactly why the two groups are fighting. He says they have been threatening one another since the middle of last month that they would go to war and take control over the city.

Media reports from the region describe the anti-terrorist alliance as a coalition of warlords who want to stem what they feel is growing Islamic extremism in Somalia. The Islamic courts are said to want to maintain law and order in the volatile capital. One media report says the recent clash was over a piece of land.

Shirwa says he believes that the U.S. government is directly supporting the Restoration of Peace and Anti-Terrorist Alliance, and that weaponry is coming into Somalia from nearby countries.

"I think mainly this comes from Ethiopia and Yemen, but that's not [the] only [support]," he added. "These warlords who established this anti-terrorist alliance, they openly said, we get money from the United States of America. It's well recorded in the local media."

The spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Jennifer Barnes, tells VOA the view that the U.S. is involved in the fighting is one of what she calls "many crazy rumors" coming out of Somalia.

Barnes denies that the U.S. is supporting the Restoration of Peace and Anti-Terrorist Alliance.

"I don't know who this individual group is," said Barnes. "But I can say that there is an effort at the moment to bring some of the jihadists to book so to speak. We are in favor and for it verbally all efforts to bring justice, peace, order, etc. to Somalia."

The United States has long maintained that Somalia could become a haven for international terrorists.

There have been more than a dozen attempts to form a central government ever since civil war broke out in 1991. Since then, warlords and their militias have battled with each other and civilians to control different parts of the country.

A transitional parliament was formed in Kenya more than a year ago, and recently met for the first time in Somalia.