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Friday, 24 May, 2002, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Somali minister's house attacked
Somali gunmen in Mogadishu
Militias have been fighting each other since 1991
Hundreds of gunmen loyal to a faction leader opposed to Somalia's transitional government have attacked the home of the interior minister in Mogadishu on Friday.


All I know is that I'm being attacked by uniformed militiamen.

Dahir Dayah

The fighting forced hundreds of people to flee the north Mogadishu neighbourhood, correspondents said.

Eyewitnesses said that at least eight people were killed in the fighting that followed the morning attack by gunmen loyal to Mohamed Dhereh on Interior Minister Dahir Dayah's house.

President Abdulkassim Salat Hassan's transitional government was installed in neighbouring Djibouti in August 2000 - but has little influence outside Mogadishu and is opposed by a number of faction leaders.

Sub-clan fighting

"All I know is that I'm being attacked by uniformed militiamen," Mr Dayah told the Associated Press news agency from his besieged house.

Police chief Abdi Hassan Awaleh Qeybdid is quoted as saying that police loyal to the government had been deployed to protect Mr Dayah and his house.

President Abdulkassim Salat Hassan
President Salat controls parts of the capital and little else

Other reports said the warring parties used heavy artillery, anti-aircraft guns and technicals (battle wagons mounted with heavy machine guns) in fighting which broke out just after morning Muslims prayers.

The BBC's Hassan Barise in Mogadushu says Mr Dhereh, who is from the same Abgal sub-clan as Mr Dayah, is a former legislator in the transitional government who defected a year ago.

He then joined an alliance of Ethiopian-backed faction leaders known as the Somali Reconciliation and Restoration Council.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since opposition leaders united to oust dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

Since then opposition leaders have been fighting each other, turning the nation of 7 million into battling fiefdoms ruled by heavily armed militias.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Hassan Barise reporting for BBC Focus On Africa
"Fighting is the most serious in recent months"

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16 May 02 | Africa
15 May 02 | Africa
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