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UN Calls For End to Somalia Fighting

The United Nations has condemned the latest round of fighting in Somalia's capital between militias loyal to the Islamic courts and a secular anti-terrorism alliance. At least 80 people have been killed in the clashes and more than 200 injured.

Fighting between members of the Islamic Court Union and the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism continued for the fourth day in the streets of Mogadishu.

The conflict reportedly broke out after an assassination attempt on one of the counterterrorism alliance's leaders.

Media reports quoted Islamic Court Union Chairman Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed as saying that his group would observe a cease-fire from late Tuesday. But clashes continue.

The U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative for Somalia, Francois Fall, appealed for the heavily armed militias to stop their warfare.

Fall tells VOA the fighting is threatening to undermine the peace process and the ability of the recently inaugurated transitional government to function well.

"We took almost two years to put the Somali leaders together and to force the dialogue among the leaders of Somalia to try to rebuild a functional state in this country," he said. "The peace process was going very well with the ongoing Somali parliament session in Baidoa.

Fall calls for both militias to work within the government system and the Somali parliament, which is currently based in the town of Baidoa.

"All the actors in Somalia should join the group of Baidoa, together, inside the framework of the TFI, the transitional federal institutions. Then we can work together and try to rebuild something consistent in Somalia," he added.

Fierce fighting between the two groups first erupted in Mogadishu in March, leaving at least 60 people dead and hundreds wounded and displaced.

Media reports describe the anti-terrorist alliance, formed three months ago, as being a coalition of warlords who aim 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.

It is widely believed that the United States is backing the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack recently told reporters that the United States is, "working with individual members of the transitional government to try to create a better situation in Somalia."

The United States has long been concerned that chaotic Somalia could become a haven for international terrorists.

There have been more than a dozen attempts to form a central government in Somalia 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 Somali parliament was formed in Kenya more than a year ago following a two-year peace process, and recently met for the first time in Somalia.