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Six dead, 12 injured in Somali factional fighting

February 12, 1997

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) _ Two Somali factions clashed Wednesday in northern Mogadishu over the future of Islamic courts. At least six people died and 12 were injured, witnesses said.

Three of the victims were civilians who died when a mortar shell slammed into a cafe. Two militiamen died and the sixth person was not identified.

Fighting began Wednesday between militiamen loyal to the former chairman of the High Islamic Court, Sheik Ali Sheikh Mohamud Dhere, who was deposed in a power struggle by faction leader Ali Mahdi Mohamed, and a small faction led by Ali Mahdi’s relative, Abdulahi Dhahan.

Dhahan apparently was angry that he hadn’t been asked to participate in a meeting Monday between Ali Mahdi and Sheik Ali. It was the first meeting between the two in the five months since Ali Mahdi decided to remove Sheik Ali as head of the courts implementing sharia, or Islamic law, in the northern half of the city.

The Islamic courts, financed by contributions from businessmen and households, are credited with establishing relative order in the northern half of the divided Somali capital.

Ali Mahdi apparently considered the cleric too much of a rival for power.

Mogadishu, like the rest of Somalia, is divided along clan lines. Since civil war began six years ago after the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, there has been no central authority in the country.

Most of southern half of Mogadishu is held by forces loyal to faction leader Hussein Aidid.

Meanwhile, Italian envoy Guiseppe Cassini shuttled between the factions Wednesday, trying to organize a new round of talks between Ali Mahdi and Aidid. The two strongmen met last month and agreed to observe a cease-fire agreement, dismantle roadblocks between the two halves of the city and form joint police patrols. Little has been done to put the agreement into effect.

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