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25 Die in Somalian Fighting

May 28, 2002

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MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) _ Heavy fighting broke out early Tuesday between forces of Somalia’s transitional government and gunmen loyal to an Ethiopian-backed warlord, killing at least 25 people.

The gunbattles began near dawn in the same north Mogadishu neighborhood where clashes between government troops and the forces of warlord Musa Sude Yalahow killed at least eight people last week.

Gunfire could be heard throughout the morning as Yalahow’s militia battled police and soldiers loyal to the transitional government. The gunmen overran and looted two police stations but were repulsed by soldiers when they attacked a nearby army base, witnesses said.

Officials at Mogadishu’s Medina hospital said at least 25 people, including 10 civilians, were killed and 50 were injured.

Each side accused the other of starting the violence.

``The government forces have attacked us, provoking my militia,″ Yalahow said.

Abdurahman Ibbi, the transitional government’s information minister, said Yalahow’s militia launched an unprovoked attack on government forces in a plan organized by neighboring Ethiopia.

Yalahow belongs to an Ethiopian-backed alliance of faction leaders known as the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council. Ethiopia and Somalia fought a war in the late 1970s over Ethiopia’s southeastern Ogaden region, home to thousands of ethnic Somalis.

Col. Ali Sharif Hajji Mohamed, a SRRC spokesman, said Tuesday council forces were united against the government, although only Yalahow’s militia was involved directly in the fighting.

On Friday, hundreds of gunmen loyal to Yalahow and led by militia leader Mohamed Dhereh attacked Interior Minister Dahir Dayah’s house, leaving it in ruins. Dayah was not harmed, but at least eight people were killed and 20 were wounded in the fighting.

Somalia has had no effective central government since opposition leaders ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. They then fought with each other, turning the Horn of Africa nation of 7 million into a patchwork of battling fiefdoms ruled by heavily armed militias.

The transitional government, led by President Abdiqasim Salad Hassan, was elected at a peace conference in neighboring Djibouti in August 2000. But it has little influence outside Mogadishu, the capital, and is opposed by a number of faction leaders.

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