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Last Updated: Friday, 24 March 2006, 12:54 GMT
Somali deaths in fierce clashes
Gunman walks past ruined building
Mogadishu has been ruined by years of fighting
Heavy fighting continued on Friday between an Islamic militia and an alliance of warlords and businessmen in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

At least 70 people are now reported killed in the three days of fierce clashes between rival forces.

A BBC correspondent in the city says the fighting, concentrated in the north-east, has further intensified, with hundreds fleeing their homes.

These are the most serious clashes in Mogadishu for almost a decade.

Hundreds of people have been fleeing the northern suburbs where their homes have been hit in the cross fire.

Ideological differences

"Today we've lost five people shot dead," an Islamist militia leader told Reuters news agency by telephone on Friday.

"And on the other side, they've lost six who were burned in a technical [a truck with a mounted gun]," he added.

No government for 15 years
Peace process was inching forward
Mogadishu fighting worst since 1996
'Anti-terror' warlords fighting Islamist militia

The conflict began in mid-February, when Somali warlords who control Mogadishu formed an alliance to challenge the emerging influence of the Islamic militia.

The warlords in the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism have accused the Islamists of sheltering foreign fighters, assassinating critics and having links to al-Qaeda.

The BBC's Mohamed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu described this week's fighting as "horrific" as people's homes were hit by anti-tank shells and mortar rounds.

"Many people could be seen fleeing from the area with their children on their backs and what you can see on the ground is only militiamen carrying guns from the line of fighting," he said on Thursday.

In February, the clan-based warlords formed an alliance to challenge the Islamic militia which has set up a system of Sharia courts.

Transitional government

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

Facts and figures about life in Somalia

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

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. 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.



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