8 May 2009

Somalia: President 'Accepts Ceasefire', Death Toll Hits 15

Somalia's interim president, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, has accepted a ceasefire proposed by the Islamic mediation committee, Radio Garowe reports.

Sheikh Bashir Ahmed Salad, who chairs the mediation committee composed of Islamic scholars, told reporters in the capital Mogadishu Friday that the Somali leader had accepted the ceasefire proposal during talks at the Villa Somalia presidential compound.

"We asked the government leaders for a ceasefire, in order to find a peaceful solution to the renewed fighting in Mogadishu," Sheikh Bashir told reporters Thursday evening.

He noted that the Islamic mediation committee dispatched the same message to the armed opposition, "but there is no response yet."

Sheikh Bashir said the government leaders "accepted to immediately stop the fighting, to avoid any action that can lead to war and to avoid using the media for propaganda that could lead to instability."

Further, he condemned the renewed violence in Mogadishu, where pro-government Islamist militias and anti-government Islamist militias fought yesterday.

15 killed, 50 wounded

The death toll from Friday's fighting has hit at least 15, with medical sources saying more than 50 people were wounded during heavy battles among the Islamist militias. READ: Notorious ex-warlord meets Somali president, 5 killed in fighting

Islamic Courts spokesman Sheikh Abdirahim Isse Addow claimed that the pro-government faction killed eight members of Al Shabaab, a group of Islamist hardliners who have rejected to recognize President Sheikh Sharif's U.N.-backed interim government.

"Our forces captured two armed trucks," Addow claimed.

There was no comment from the Al Shabaab faction, but sources in Mogadishu said Al Shabaab fighters targeted again Thursday night in Hodan district after fighting earlier during the day.

Medical sources at Daynile and Medina hospitals said upwards of 50 wounded persons were admitted since the fighting erupted in Mogadishu yesterday.

Fighting condemned

Somali human rights group Elman has expressed its opposition to the new round of violence in Mogadishu, with Elman deputy chairman Ali "Fadhaa" Sheikh Yasin telling reporters that the "factions are not fighting for the people's interest."

"The people want peace not war. It is surprising to reward the people who supported the Islamists' rise yesterday with more war," Mr. Ali Fadhaa told reporters Friday.

He indicated that "most of yesterday's victims were civilians," while underlining that the violence represents a clear violation of human rights and Islamic law.

The Elman human rights group called on all factions to immediately stop the fighting and to "have mercy for the suffering masses."

Somalia has been mired in armed conflict since the outbreak of civil war in 1991. President Sheikh Sharif's new government, which came to power in January, is the international community's 15th attempt to restore order in Mogadishu.

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