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Somali battles kill 38 since Djibouti "peace pact"


MOGADISHU, June 20 (Reuters) - Overnight violence in Somalia pushed the death toll on Friday to 38 in the days since a peace deal was signed in Djibouti last week.

The June 10 agreement between Somalia's interim government and some opposition figures was rejected outright by hardline Islamists in exile and the insurgents on the ground, and experts had warned it was likely to have little impact on the violence.

Overnight in northern Somalia, police said a roadside bomb killed a hotel owner in Galkayo town. It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack.

Most deaths have been the result of clashes between Islamist rebels and allied Somali-Ethiopian forces.

Residents in Mogadishu said the heaviest fighting this week broke out on Thursday along Industrial Road in the north of the capital, where both sides traded artillery barrages and machine-gun fire.

At least 10 people were killed, they said, including five children. Dozens more civilians were wounded.

"A mortar shell dropped right in front of our house and tore a child to pieces," witness Suado Farah told Reuters.

"He was burnt and could only be recognised by his hat."

Locals said four other children died when an artillery strike hit a home in the Gubta neighbourhood. Elsewhere, they said the bodies of three unidentified men lay in the road.

A rebel spokesman, Sheikh Abdirahim Isse Adow, said two of their fighters had been killed and three wounded.

"We launched a heavy attack on the Ethiopians and so-called government troops and we killed many of them," he told Reuters. "Two died and three of ours were wounded, but we are happy."

Government officials could not be reached for comment.

Islamist hardliners who opposed the U.N.-led Djibouti talks have refused to meet the Western-backed government face-to-face until Ethiopian troops leave Somalia. The country has been in near-perpetual conflict since the 1991 toppling of a dictator. (Reporting by Abdi Sheikh, Ibrahim Mohamed and Abdi Mohamed; Writing by Abdi Sheikh; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Matthew Jones

SOURCE: Reuters, June 20, 2008


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