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Mogadishu calm after fierce battles

MOGADISHU, Somalia, May 11 (UPI) -- Fierce fighting that had rocked Mogadishu for four days died down Monday, with relative calm returning to the Somali capital, witnesses said.

The battles between Islamic militant groups and forces loyal to the transitional Somali government claimed at least 50 lives and left nearly 200 people wounded, the Voice of America reported.

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Somali officials denied claims the militant groups, including al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, had gained control of Mogadishu landmarks such as the football stadium. Information Minister Farhan Mohamoud told VOA the fighting was instigated by foreigners working with the Somali insurgents, whom he said are controlling the movements and working to open Somalia as a base for international terrorism.

Mohamoud urged international observers to consider the links between al-Shabaab, especially, and al-Qaida. But al-Shabaab leader Ali Dheere Mohamud counters that it's the transitional government led by President Sharif Sheik Ahmed that is making Somalia beholden to foreigners, VOA said.

The militant leader said the fighting is between Muslims and those who work for African Union peacekeepers, whose goal, he says, is to eradicate Islam from Somalia, VOA reported.

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