Somali clan frees prisoners, ceasefire holds
MOGADISHU, March 26 (Reuters) - The dominant clan in Somalia's chaotic capital Mogadishu on Monday freed 18 prisoners captured during fighting with interim government forces.
Elders of the Hawiye clan have been in talks with the government and its Ethiopian military allies since about 20 people died last week in the city's worst bloodshed since a war over the New Year to oust militant Islamists.
"We asked the government to come collect these prisoners, but nobody showed up so we released them without conditions," Hawiye leader and spokesman Ahmed Diriye Diriye told Reuters.
The release boosted a four-day-old ceasefire.
The government, led by President Abdullahi Yusuf from the Darod clan, is facing an insurgency from ever bolder Islamists and disgruntled, heavily armed clan militia.
Last week's upsurge in violence, which saw some dead troops dragged through the streets and burnt, came after the interim administration launched a campaign to disarm parts of Mogadishu.
Diriye said the government soldiers' bodies were abused by people angry at being caught in the near-daily crossfire.
"We heard there were some bodies being dragged in the streets by some people who were upset about being shelled," he said. "I give my condolences to the families of those soldiers."
There were no new reports of violence on Monday.
Pacifying the capital is a huge task for the government, which ended a six-month Islamist rule of the city with the help of Ethiopia's military in a two-week ground and air offensive.
At the weekend, Hawiye leaders also met officials from an African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in Somalia, which currently consists of just 1,200 Ugandan soldiers.
Yusuf, whose government is the 14th attempt to set up central rule since 1991, has called for national reconciliation talks to place in Mogadishu on April 16, but the conference will depend on security in the city.
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