MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) _ Unidentified gunmen have shot and killed a Muslim fundamentalist commander whose group has been seeking to unite an eastern Ethiopia region with Somalia, witnesses said Friday.

Col. Abdullahi Irad, a commander in the Al-Itihad Al-Islamia group, was shot Thursday by four men in a taxi outside a mosque where he had just prayed, said witnesses who spoke on condition on anonymity.

Relatives who also spoke anonymously said Irad's family and Al-Itihad officials suspect he was killed by Ethiopian agents. Irad has for the past seven years organized raids to the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, which Al-Itihad wants joined with Somalia.

Ogaden is predominantly inhabited by ethnic Somalis.

Irad, who was shot four times in the chest, was buried Friday in keeping with the Muslim tradition of quick burials.

It was the third recent attack on an Al-Itihad official in Mogadishu.

Thursday's killing comes as the 13-month border war between neighboring Ethiopia and Eritrea is spilling into Somalia. Eritrea has sent fighters to Somalia, from where they are attempting to reach southern Ethiopia.

The Ethiopians hold Luq, a Somali town near the Kenya and Ethiopia borders.

Luq has been a stronghold of the Al-Itihad. Ethiopian troops first attacked Luq in December 1997 and pushed Al-Itihad forces back into Somalia.

In the past two months, Ethiopian forces have joined with a Somali faction to capture half a dozen towns, including Huddor and Baidoa, a key town 160 miles northwest of Mogadishu.

Somalia has had no central government since clan-based faction leaders joined forces to oust dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in January 1991. After toppling Siad Barre, the factions turned against each other and the country disintegrated into fiefdoms.