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Report: 1,000 People Killed In Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia, April 10, 2007 – Recent fighting between Ethiopian-backed government troops and Islamic insurgents in Somalia's capital killed more than 1,000 civilians and wounded 4,300, according to a report by the largest clan in the battle-scarred city.
The estimate was a dramatic escalation in the death toll from four days of bloodshed that started in late March - the country's worst violence in more than 15 years. An earlier estimate by a Somali human rights group said more than 1,000 civilians had been killed or wounded.
Mogadishu 's dominant clan - the Hawiye - released its casualty report late Monday, saying 1,086 civilians had been killed and 4,344 wounded. The group said it gathered the data from the radio, human rights groups and hospitals, but did not elaborate.
Meanwhile, Hawiye elders canceled planned talks with the Ethiopian military Tuesday amid fears that fighting would resume after more than a week of relative calm.
The Hawiye brokered a truce nine days ago with the Ethiopian military, which has been in Somalia for months protecting the government from Islamic insurgents. But Somali and Ethiopian troops have been closing streets in Mogadishu and digging trenches in recent days.
"It is possible that the two warring sides could restart the fighting at any time," resident Ahmed Ibrahim told The Associated Press.
The U.N. refugee agency says some 124,000 people have fled the capital since the beginning of February. The most recent fighting started when Ethiopian troops used tanks and attack helicopters in an offensive to crush the insurgents.
The insurgents are linked to the Council of Islamic Courts, which was driven from power in late December and early January by Somali and Ethiopian soldiers, accompanied by U.S. special forces. The U.S. has accused the courts of having ties to al-Qaida.
The militants reject any kind of secular government in Somalia, and have sworn to fight until Somalia becomes an Islamic emirate.
Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, a leading official of the Islamic courts, told a radio station in Mogadishu late Monday that ethnic Somalis across East Africa should join forces to resist the Ethiopians using their "souls and money."
Ahmed spoke by telephone from the capital of neighboring Eritrea, where he was meeting with that country's president, Isaias Afwerki. The top U.S. diplomat for Africa, on a visit to Somalia over the weekend, said Eritrea was supporting the insurgency.
Isaias has denied supporting terrorism. On Monday, he said the Islamic courts are "part and parcel of the noble opposition of the Somali people against aggression," according to a statement on the Eritrean Information Ministry Web site.
Somalia has been mired in chaos since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre and then turned against each other. A national government was established with U.N. help in 2004, but has failed to assert any real control.
Source: The Associated Press