May 25, 2006

Somalia fighting spreads, at least 9 more dead

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - A new flare-up between rival militias
spread across Somalia's lawless capital Mogadishu on Thursday,
killing another nine people, eyewitnesses said.

Mortars and bullets were flying in various parts of south
Mogadishu, as militia linked to Islamic courts again squared
off with fighters for a self-styled anti-terrorism coalition of
warlords, residents said.

The battle for control of Mogadishu has been on-and-off
between the two groups since the turn of the year -- killing at
least 270 people -- but the latest and fiercest fighting had
been in the city's north.

Residents said, however, that it spread to southern
districts from early on Thursday morning.

Scores were fleeing the fighting, and the streets were full
of terrified old people and children, witnesses told Reuters.

"We brought my child to the Hanana medical clinic this
morning, two minutes later the horrible shootings began, and
our lives were in danger," said Halima Jama, a mother-of-three.

This year's fighting in Mogadishu has been the worst for
years in Somalia, which has been without a functioning
government since the 1991 toppling of former dictator Mohamed
Siad Barre.

The militia linked to the Islamic sharia courts say their
warlord enemies are being funded by the United States, an
accusation that is believed by many Somalis and some analysts.