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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 March 2006, 12:00 GMT
Somali warlords battle Islamists
Militiamen in Mogadishu
Mogadishu is controlled by thousands of gunmen
Heavy fighting is continuing in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, between warlords and an armed Islamist group.

Hospital officials say at least 60 people have been killed in two days of clashes in the north of the city. Residents say mortars are being used.

The warlords accuse the Islamists of sheltering foreign fighters and assassinating moderate Muslims.

Somalia has been without an effective central government for 15 years and has been carved up by rival militias.

A transitional parliament met recently for the first time on home soil since it was formed in Kenya more than a year ago as part of attempts to restore peace and stability.

The BBC's Mohammed Olad Hassan says more than 100 armed vehicles are deployed in the area and residents are fleeing carrying children on their backs.

There are fears that with such a strong ideological divide between the two sides, it may prove difficult to negotiate an end to the fighting.

Passengers killed

The United Nations' Irin news agency reports that thousands of people are fleeing the clashes.

It also quotes a doctor saying many more than 60 people may have been killed "because a lot of people are being buried where they died".

The hospitals are reported to be full of the injured. Our reporter describes the scenes as horrific.

Facts and figures about life in Somalia

The AP news agency reports that five civilians were killed when a mortar fell on a bus, while a man was shot dead for telling gunmen they could not hide in his house.

The dispute started near the port area, which is currently controlled by powerful businessmen.

Much of the fighting has been in residential areas and the latest clashes are reportedly closer to the city centre.

Four days of fighting last month between the two sides was some of the heaviest fighting seen in the Somali capital for several years.

At least five warlords-cum-ministers in the transitional government are behind the new Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism, opposed to the Islamic courts' militia.

The courts have set up Mogadishu's only judicial system in parts of the capital but have been accused of links to al-Qaeda.



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