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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 January, 2005, 10:54 GMT
Somali militias target cemetery
Man destroying wall foundations in Mogadishu
Much of Mogadishu has been destroyed by looters
Militias from the Islamic courts set up in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, are destroying a colonial Italian cemetery.

They are digging up the graves and dumping human remains near the airport.

The BBC's Mohammed Olad Hassan says he was horrified to see a large number of abandoned human skulls. Young boys were playing with one as a toy.

Somalia has not had a functioning national government since 1991 and rival militias have divided it into a patchwork of rival fiefdoms.

There are thousands of graves at the cemetery, of which some 700 have been destroyed.

The militias refused to let our correspondent enter the cemetery in dangerous north Mogadishu but locals say the gunmen want to turn it into a base.

Hundreds of people have gone to the former air force base, near the ruined international airport to see the dumped human remains.

Local resident Geedow Awaale Ali said the remains had been dumped overnight and he was worried about the spread of disease.

Law and order

Mogadishu was under Italian colonial control until World War Two and many of the graves belong to Italian soldiers and expatriates.

The Islamic courts were set up by businessmen in Mogadishu to bring some semblance of law and order to a city without a police force.

A new Somali government has been named in neighbouring Kenya and it is due to start relocating to Mogadishu on 1 February.

During the 14 years of anarchy, much of the city has been destroyed by looters, who recycle and sell anything they can find - even the metal rods used to reinforce concrete.

The looters mostly work for one of the warlords who takes a cut of their profit.



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