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Last Updated: Monday, 30 April 2007, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Somalis returning to the capital
A Somali resident walks past a demolished building in Mogadishu
Many houses have been destroyed or looted
Hundreds of Somalis, many in desperate conditions, have been returning to the capital, Mogadishu, since the end of the fiercest fighting seen in years.

The BBC's Mohammed Moalimo said many returnees were very distressed and had no shelter and a shortage of food.

The first talks since Ethiopian forces and interim government troops defeated Islamists and Hawiye clan militia fighters took place on Sunday.

The Somali president and Hawiye elders agreed to a ceasefire and more talks.

Our reporter said people were still suspicious that more conflict might erupt, despite appeals from President Abdullahi Yusuf for the hundreds of thousands who fled fighting in Mogadishu to return.

The international community has deserted Somalia
Lieutenant Katumba Wamala
AU force commander
He says they have been returning in their hundreds, but not to the areas which saw the heaviest fighting.

"We can't go back to where the troops are. There is some unexploded ordinance in my neighbourhood," Maryam Ali, a resident of the Towfiq neighbourhood, told Reuters news agency.

Our reporter says he saw one mother coming back into the capital on foot transporting some building materials while trying to carry three small children - one on her shoulders, one in her arms and holding the hand of a third.

Another mother said she had just enough food for herself and her four children for two days, he said.


The United Nations, aid agencies and African Union peacekeepers have warned of a humanitarian crisis and the dangers of a cholera outbreak.

"People are in dire need of everything from water to medicine to food to shelter," said AU commander Lieutenant Katumba Wamala.

Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf
President Yusuf is not trusted in the capital
"Unfortunately the international community has deserted Somalia and I want [to] make a call - this is not a time to desert the Somali community, this is the time when Somali people need more."

He also said it was too early for the government to declare victory over the insurgents, saying they could still be a "force of instability".

Local human rights groups say at least 1,300 people have been killed over the past two months.

Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and former parliamentary speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden have issued a joint statement in Eritrea saying the insurgents had done a good job challenging "Ethiopian occupation forces" in Somalia.

They called for continued resistance to both the Ethiopian troops and the African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu.

"We call on Somalis, wherever they are, to continue the resistance and never accept the yoke of the coloniser," the statement said.

Ethiopia has long accused Eritrea of backing Somalia's Islamists.

The interim government has moved to further cement their control in the capital, erecting three new roadblocks and appointing former warlords Mohamed Dheere as Mogadishu's mayor and Abdi Hassan "Qaybdiid" Awale as national police chief.

Mr Awale was a member of the Anti-Terror Alliance driven out of Mogadishu by the Union of Islamic Courts last June.

The Islamists were in turn ousted last December by government troops backed up by the Ethiopians.

The Ethiopians want to withdraw to be replaced by AU peacekeepers but only 1,200, of the planned 8,000, have arrived.

Somalia has not had an effective national government for 16 years.

Mr Yusuf was elected in 2004 but he is from the north and does not have a strong support base in the capital.


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