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Somali PM Claims Victory in Mogadishu

The prime minister of Somalia's transitional government is claiming victory over insurgents in Mogadishu. But a former member of parliament denies that the transitional government is in control of the volatile capital. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi told reporters in Mogadishu his government, backed by Ethiopian troops, has taken control of insurgent strongholds. Mr. Gedi said most of the fighting in Mogadishu is now over.

While the prime minister was claiming victory over the insurgents, Omar Hashi, a former member of parliament now in exile in Eritrea and allied with some Islamists fighting the transitional government, denies that the government is in control.

"There is no Somali government," he said. "There is the Ethiopian military fighting the Somali people. So Somali people are fighting until the last person dies. There is no [Prime Minister] Gedi, there is no [President] Abdullahi Yusf, there is no government, there is [Ethiopian Prime Minister] Meles Zenawi in Mogadishu."

The capital has been rocked by heavy fighting this week that has killed more than 300 people and has caused tens of thousands more to flee the violence. Ethiopia intervened in Somalia in late December to help the government defeat the Islamic Courts Union.

Remnants of the courts as well as disgruntled clan militias and radical Islamists have continued to battle with Ethiopian and government forces in Mogadishu.

Sources in Mogadishu tell VOA that many Islamist fighters are now in hiding and are believed to be regrouping elsewhere for future battles with the government.

Insurgents are still believed to be in control of a key area of Mogadishu, called Bakara Market.

The fighting has sparked a major humanitarian crisis.