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Exiled Somali leader dies

Mogadishu - The former Somali president, Mohamed Siad Barre, has died in exile in Nigeria as the clan strife racking his nation raged on, hampering the withdrawal of United Nations forces.

Diriye Barre said his father, who had been suffering from diabetes, died in hospital yesterday. The former Somali leader had asked to be buried in his home town, Garbahaarrey, in the south-west of the country.

Siad Barre, who seized power in a coup in 1969, was toppled in January 1991 by forces loyal to General Mohamed Farah Aideed and the man who declared himself president after Siad Barre left, Ali Mahdi Mohamed.

Heavy fighting later broke out in Mogadishu between the two factions, carving the city in two, killing 30,000 people and leading to a famine that took 10 times that number of lives. A US-led force landed in December 1992 to stop the fighting and open up food corridors to hundreds of thousands of starving Somalis.

In Mogadishu yesterday, rival Somali militias fought for a third day to gain territory before UN troops complete their departure in March.

The main battle was for control of Bermuda, a key district next to the harbour and overlooking the UN-controlled airport. The death toll rose to at least 11 and more than 200 were wounded.

A fleeing pregnant woman said one of her seven children had been killed when a mortar bomb hit her house. "We have buried him in the courtyard," she said.

A stray shell damaged a roof at the airport on Sunday but did not delay the departure of the first group of 259 Malaysian UN troops, leaving about 9,000 UN personnel in Somalia after the withdrawal of the Indian and Zimbabwean contingents.

News of Barre's death appeared not to have reached many ordinary Somalis yesterday, and it was not immediately known whether the country's warlords would allow him to be buried in his home soil.

Obituary, page 12