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Somali Islamist Militants Seize Town from Warlords

BY Admin  June 14, 2006 at 11:50 AM EST

Somali militias

“At last we are in the town,” Sheikh Hassan, a local elder loyal to the Islamic Courts Union, told Reuters.

The town’s capture gives the militias control of most of southern Somalia. Four people were killed in the attack and between 10 and 18 were wounded, Islamist militia sources said.

The siege appeared to be an attempt to deal a final blow to the weakened warlords, who had ruled Mogadishu for 15 years.

Residents of Jowhar said militia fighters linked to sharia courts had seized the airport and battered the town with heavy artillery fire, sending inhabitants — and the warlords — fleeing, Reuters reported.

The warlords had said they were defending Somalia from fighters with an Islamist agenda, claiming the militias have al-Qaida ties.

“Those who are attacking us are Islamic fundamentalist militias who are trying to install an Islamic state,” said Hassan Dhicisow, a Jowhar militia commander.

Analysts say the warlords are becoming increasingly isolated, especially after east African countries imposed sanctions, including a travel ban and asset freeze at talks in Nairobi, according to Reuters.

Lawmakers in Mogadishu, meanwhile, approved a peacekeeping mission for Somalia, potentially setting up the transitional government with a violent confrontation with the Islamic Courts Union, which has rejected the notion of foreign fighters in the country.

The vote took place after three days of debate in parliament, located in the southern town of Baidoa, which is about 155 miles northwest of Mogadishu.