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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 January, 2005, 12:27 GMT
Somalis build mosque on cemetery
Somali cemetery
After years of fighting, Mogadishu's cemeteries are in poor shape
Somali militiamen have begun building a mosque on the site of an Italian colonial-era cemetery in Mogadishu, which they desecrated last week.

The BBC's Mohammed Olad Hassan saw a small corrugated metal structure amid the coffins which litter the area.

He says the capital has been very tense since the armed militia group occupied the cemetery last week.

The Italian government has described the graves' desecration as barbaric.

The decision to build a mosque has been condemned by many local residents, as well as by local Islamic authorities.

Remains dumped

The militia exhumed the human remains of some 700 graves and dumped them near Mogadishu airport.

Facts and figures about life in Somalia

The chairman of the Somali Clerics Council, Sheik Nur Barood Gurhan, said under Islamic law the militia men were not allowed to construct the mosque without the permission of the land's owners.

The militiamen told our correspondent that they were building the mosque for local people.

But residents near the cemetery said they were unhappy with the situation and threatened to kick the militias out.

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

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

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

But Mogadishu remains a dangerous city and its chief of police, in charge of investigating the cemetery's destruction, was assassinated by gunmen last week.


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