At least 11 killed in fresh Somalia fighting
The new fatalities brought to at least 89 the death toll from the latest round of fighting between the two sides that began last week.india Updated: Jun 02, 2006 16:58 IST
At least 11 people were killed and dozens wounded on Friday as fighters with a US-backed warlord alliance battled suspected Islamic gunmen outside the lawless Somali capital, witnesses said.
As elders pressed for a truce in Mogadishu, alliance members attacked a group believed to have defected to the Islamists in Balad, about 30 kilometers north of the city, where clashes erupted on Thursday, they said.
Residents said the fighting involved gunmen loyal to warlord Musa Sudi Yalahow, a leading member of the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT) and those of a former ally-turned-rival, Moalim Ashi.
"The alliance killed nine rival fighters belonging to Ashi and lost two," said one resident, who saw the engagement unfold but declined to give his name for security concerns.
The new fatalities brought to at least 89 the death toll from the latest round of fighting between the two sides that began last week and have seen the Islamists make steady gains in territory.
Gunmen loyal to Mogadishu's 11 Islamic courts have moved into Balad over the past several days to cut off the alliance's key supply route to the town of Jowhar, about 90 kms north of the capital.
Mogadishu proper was tense but relatively calm on Friday, although the two sides were reinforcing positions even as elders scurried to secure an elusive ceasefire.
"We are contacting both sides involved in the conflict and they say they want peace, but to the contrary, the commanders are preparing themselves for war," said mediator Ali Hassan.
"If this dangerous trend continues, Mogadishu will be very bad and the situation will get out of control," he told said.
Witnesses said the factions deployed hundreds of reinforcements and scores of machine gun-mounted pick-ups in volatile areas in and around northern and southern Mogadishu.
And, there were fears that Muslim calls for mass anti-alliance and anti-US demonstrations after Friday's prayers could spark fresh clashes, they said.
The new fatalities in Balad brought the death toll from three months of battles to 327 with more than 1,500 wounded, many of them civilians, and on Friday the two sides traded blame for the violence.