Shabelle Media via Reuters
Members of the Somali Islamic militia block a road after clashes with a self-styled coalition of warlords on Saturday.
updated 6/5/2006 8:16:28 AM ET 2006-06-05T12:16:28

An Islamic militia said Monday it has seized Somalia's capital after weeks of some of the bloodiest fighting in 15 years of anarchy in this Horn of Africa nation.

Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, chairman of the Islamic Courts Union, said his forces have fought off a secular alliance of warlords who have been trying to retain their grip on Somalia. The militia appeared in control of the capital.

"We want to restore peace and stability to Mogadishu. We are ready to meet and talk anybody and any group for the interest of the people," Ahmed said on a radio broadcast.

The Islamic militias have made steady gains in recent days, seizing villages and enlisting former alliance commanders.

Their growing power is raising fears that the nation could follow the path of Taliban Afghanistan into the hands of al-Qaida.

The most recent surge in violence here started last month, killing more than 300 people and wounding 1,700, many of them civilians caught in crossfire. The fundamentalists accuse their rivals of working for the CIA, while the alliance says the militias have links to al-Qaida.

The United States is widely believed to be supporting the alliance but American officials have refused to confirm or deny that. The U.S. has carried out no direct action in Somalia since the last intervention resulted in the deaths of 18 servicemen in a 1993 battle.

Somalia, an impoverished country of 8 million, has been divided into rival fiefdoms since 1991, when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

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