5 Somalis Die As Islamists Fight Government

Published March 9, 2010

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- Fighting between Islamist insurgents and Somali government forces killed five people in the capital on Tuesday, residents said.

Ahmed Dahir Hussein saw three civilians who had been shot lying dead in the street and Mohamud Ali Shobaye says he saw two dead fighters in Mogadishu's southern Hodan neighborhood.

The government has been promising an offensive against the insurgents for weeks and fighting has recently increased after a few months' lull.

In a separate incident, four masked gunmen also shot dead an Islamist commander in the capital's Bakara market, a spokesman for the insurgency said.

It was unclear who killed Barre Ali Barre, head of the military wing of the Party of Islam or Hizbul Islam, said spokesman Sheik Ibrahim Barre Osman.

The group is fighting the government but also has fought against another Islamist group called al-Shabab. The U.S. State Department says al-Shabab has links to al-Qaida.

The failed state of Somalia has not had a functioning government for a generation. It dissolved into clan warfare after socialist dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991. The latest fighting is between a weak U.N.-backed government and an alliance of Islamist forces, but clan loyalties are still a key influence on the conflict.

Written by <P class="ap-story-p">By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN, Associated Press Writer</P>

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