Somalia’s interim government and the opposing Islamic Courts Council have agreed to resume peace talks. It comes after two days of heavy fighting close to the government’s base in the town of Baidoa. There are unconfirmed reports that hundreds of fighters have been killed.
Many in the region fear the violence could plunge the entire region into crisis, sucking in neighbours Ethiopia and Eritrea. The Islamic Courts have refused to negotiate with the transitional government until Ethiopia withdraws any pro-government military presence it has in Somalia. Addis Ababa denies it has troops in the country.
On a last ditch peace mission, EU envoy Louis Michel met both sides to plead for talks to take place. The rival administrations reached an impasse in November, when power-sharing talks broke down. The Islamic Courts have restored a semblance of law and order across the country. The group has denied claims of links with Al Qaeda.