Get IOL's cool new iPad app...
By Salad Duhul
Mogadishu - At least 50 people have been killed and 150 wounded in three days of clashes between rival Islamist groups in Somalia.
As President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's government continues to struggle against a powerful insurgency, hundreds of moderate Islamists loyal to the government and opposition al-Shebab militiamen fought in northern Mogadishu at the weekend.
"We killed an uncountable number of government fighters and moderate Islamists. Their dead bodies lie in the streets," Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahim Bilal, a senior al-Shebab official, said.
Residents and hospital sources said 50 people had been killed in the fighting and 181 wounded.
It was some of the worst fighting in weeks, with both sides pounding the capital with mortars and machine-gun fire.
At least 15 corpses were seen in the streets of Mogadishu yesterday after fighting started late on Saturday and continued into yesterday afternoon.
Hospital officials and witnesses in other parts of the city said another five people were killed.
Abdinasir Ali, a resident, said he recognised six victims as members of the same family, who had died when a mortar shell hit their house.
Residents were streaming out of the capital, seeking safety.
Medina hospital official Dahir Mohamed Mohamud said 60 people had been admitted at the weekend.
The violence pitted the pro-government fighters against those allied to al-Shebab, an insurgent group seeking to overthrow the Western-backed government.
National Security Minister Omar Hashi Aden said yesterday that sporadic violence was continuing.
Somalia has been in chaos since the 1991 ousting of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. Rival clans then turned on each other.
Since late 2006, insurgents have been trying to topple the weak government. And in recent years, piracy has exploded off the lawless coast.
The United States worries that Somalia could be a terrorist breeding ground, particularly since Osama bin Laden declared support for al-Shebab.
It accuses al-Shebab of harbouring the al-Qaeda-linked terrorists who allegedly blew up the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
At a conference last month in Brussels, Ahmed pledged to do "everything imaginable" to stabilise Somalia.
Ahmed, elected by parliament in January, is a former fighter with the Islamic insurgency.
He has been trying to broker peace with warring groups and gain legitimacy, but his administration wields little control outside Mogadishu, and needs help from African peacekeepers to do even that.
Fighters opposed to his government see the 4 350 African Union peacekeepers as "foreign invaders" and obstacles to peace.