Saturday, June 17, 2006

Somali warlords 'flee Mogadishu'

(CNN) -- Two defeated Somali warlords have fled Mogadishu to a ship in the Indian Ocean, an informed source told CNN.

The two were identified as Bashir Raghe and Muse Sudi Yalahow, who represented forces that had been defeated by the Islamist militia that now controls Mogadishu, the capital of the East African nation of Somalia.

Somalia's last functioning government collapsed in 1991, and the transitional government based in the inland city of Baidoa wields little influence.

The Islamic Courts Union, a militia that backs the imposition of Islamic law in Somalia, seized control of Mogadishu last week from a U.S.-backed coalition of secular warlords, renewing concerns the lawless country could become a haven for al Qaeda terrorists.

Mogadishu was the scene of a 1993 battle between U.S. troops and a warlord militia that killed 18 Americans and hundreds of Somalis.

The Reuters news service reported that the Islamists, led by an umbrella group of sharia courts, have invited international journalists to see Mogadishu for the first time since they routed warlords -- believed to have U.S. backing -- in fighting that killed 350 people since February.
The Islamists did not stop with the coastal capital, swiftly marching inland and capturing key towns nearly to the Ethiopian border as they ran off the long-powerful warlords.
It has left Somalia's weak interim government, based in the south-central city of Baidoa, nearly surrounded. The Islamists say they have no interest in starting their own government, but have imposed sharia law wherever they have arrived.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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