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Militias, Somalia hold peace talks

Published January 13, 2007


MOGADISHU, Somalia - Ethiopian-backed government forces captured the last remaining stronghold of the Islamic movement in southern Somalia, the Somali defense minister said Friday, hours after warlords met with the president and promised to enlist their militiamen in the army.

The southern town of Ras Kamboni fell after five days of heavy fighting, said Col. Barre "Hirale" Aden Shire, the defense minister. He said government troops backed by Ethiopian forces and MiG fighter jets chased fleeing Islamic fighters into nearby forests. He did not give casualty figures, and he said the fighting would continue.

Ras Kamboni is in a rugged coastal area a few miles from the Kenyan border. It is in the area where a U.S. airstrike on Monday targeted suspected al-Qaida militants.

The report of the town's fall came after Somalia's warlords met with the transitional government's president, Abdullahi Yusuf, in Mogadishu and pledged to disarm their militias, a major step toward bringing calm to the capital after years of chaos.

The meeting sought to establish enough security in the capital so international peacekeepers can deploy and protect the government until it can establish an effective police force and army.

Outside the peace talks, however, a fight over where to park an armored car left at least six people dead and 10 wounded. Clan gunmen fired a rocket-propelled grenade and briefly exchanged gunfire with government troops during the fight.

Nevertheless, government officials said the meeting between Yusuf and three top warlords was successful. "The warlords and the government have agreed to collaborate for the restoration of peace in Somalia," said government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari.

One of Somalia's most powerful warlords, Mohamed Qanyare Afrah, said after the meeting that the clans were "fed up" with guns and ready to cooperate.




[Last modified January 13, 2007, 01:10:05]

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