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Cease-Fire Signed by Somali Faction Leaders

October 16, 1996

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ Somali faction leaders have signed a cease-fire agreement that could end six years of civil war as early as Thursday.

``The cease-fire will begin at midnight Oct. 17,″ Mohammed H. Addo, deputy chairman of the United Somali Congress, said Tuesday.

The congress, led by Ali Mahdi Mohamed, controls the northern half of Mogadishu, the Somali capital. Two other faction leaders _ Hussein Aidid and Osman Hassan Ali, known as Atto _ have been fighting for control of south Mogadishu.

The agreement, mediated by the Kenyan government, was reached after shuttle negotiations in at least three Nairobi hotels. The three leaders had been talking for about a week.

The agreement calls for dismantling the blockades that have divided Mogadishu into sectors, and taking down the roadblocks on the main roads into the city.

Aidid succeeded his father, Gen. Mohamed Farrah Aidid, on Aug. 4 as head of the most powerful Somali faction. The elder Aidid died after a fight with forces of Atto, his former ally.

The power struggle among rival faction and clan leaders has carved the country of 8 million people into a collection of fiefdoms with no central government. More than 350,000 Somalis have died from the fighting and famine.

The United States led a U.N. mission in 1992 to protect the distribution of food to Somalis who had been cut off from supplies by the fighting. But the fighting continued after the troops left, and violence is still commonplace in Mogadishu.

Last week, at least seven people were killed and more than 20 wounded in fighting.

Witnesses said the fighting started when forces allied with Ali Mahdi opened fire on Aidid’s motorcade as it drove toward an airstrip south of Mogadishu.

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