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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 June 2006, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
Somali Islamists capture key town
Somali fighters on armoured jeep
The warlords had retreated to Jowhar last week
Somali Islamic fighters have captured the town of Jowhar from warlords a week after driving them from the capital, Mogadishu, 90km to the south.

The militia loyal to the Union of Islamic courts attacked the town after warlords, said to be US backed, fled.

The town was overrun, with two fighters killed and 14 injured in the two-hour battle, a local journalist says.

Further north in Baidoa, the interim parliament has voted to call for an African peacekeeping force.

Warlords controlled Mogadishu for 15 years, but have became isolated as the influence of the Islamists has grown.

The transitional government is too weak to base itself in the capital and talks with the Union of Islamic Courts have faltered over the issue of foreign troops.

Islamist leaders say they are opposed to foreign troops entering Mogadishu, where they say the Islamist militia has already restored order.

Curfew

HornAfrik journalist Mohamed Ibrahim Mualimu in Jowhar says the city itself is now calm, with many residents either staying indoors or fleeing, but gunfire can still be heard on the outskirts.

The fighting was between the Islamist fighters and those of the remaining alliance militia allied to Jowhar's main warlord Mohamed Dhere.

The warlords who fled from Mogadishu, including sacked minister Mohamed Afrah Qanyare, went further north overnight towards El Bur in the central Somali region of Galgudud, say reporters.

The attack on Jowhar came from the north and south, even though the Islamic fighters had been camped to the south.

Four warlords are still holed up in the north of the capital and are threatening to resist the Union of Islamic Courts - who now control the capital - and their militia.

Islamist leader Sharif Shaikh Ahmed announced a night-time curfew (2000 to 0500), and said Jowhar elders should form a new local administration with the Islamic Courts responsible for security and justice.

Plan

The transitional government, which is based in Baidoa 250km from Mogadishu, only controls a small part of country that has not had a functioning national authority for 15 years.

Under their proposals, the peacekeeping force would arrive in two phases - the first involving only troops from Uganda and Sudan.

Facts and figures about life in Somalia

The second phase could involve troops from other regional countries including Ethiopia, which has backed some warlords.

The interim government has asked the United Nations to lift its arms embargo in the country.

On Tuesday, East African countries imposed immediate sanctions on the warlords who once controlled Mogadishu.

Kenya's Foreign Minister Raphael Tuju described the Islamist takeover as a "popular uprising".

"It is obvious that the dislodged warlords still pose a threat to the security of Mogadishu and the country at large," Mr Tuju said.

"In this regard, it is important for Igad member states to support the transitional federal government to assume full control of the capital, Mogadishu, and the country as a whole."

The US says it will form a Somalia Contact Group in New York on Thursday to discuss the situation there.

But the Arab League and Kenya have criticised the US for restricting invitations to the meeting to Britain, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Tanzania and representatives from the European Union. The United Nations and African Union have also been invited to observe.

Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf and some Kenya-based diplomats have criticised the US for supporting the warlords.

The US has neither confirmed nor denied the reports but says it will stop Somalia becoming a safe haven for terrorists.




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