MOGADISHU, Somalia — The interim Somali government's hold on power appeared to slip Friday as fighting erupted in the port city of Kismayo between clan militias that had made up the government's armed forces. Residents reported at least seven dead and six wounded.
Local authorities announced a dusk-to-dawn curfew starting Friday in Mogadishu, the capital, 300 miles north of Kismayo, amid continuing bomb blasts and door-to-door house searches by heavily armed Ethiopian forces backing the interim government,
It was the first such curfew in the Somali capital since the Council of Islamic Courts, an Islamist government that U.S. officials had accused of giving sanctuary to al Qaida fugitives, was overthrown in December.
One roadside bomb struck a Somali police truck Friday, killing four officers as well as three civilians, among them a 10-year-old boy, authorities said.
Even after the curfew began, seven large explosions shook the capital. It was unclear whether insurgents or security forces had detonated them.
Bombs — improvised explosive devices similar to those used against U.S. forces in Iraq — have become routine in Mogadishu in the past months, exploding two to three times a day. Most have missed their targets, but Friday's hit showed that the insurgents have improved their mastery of the technique.
Government officials blame remnants of the Islamic Courts movement for the increasing violence in the capital.
In semi-autonomous Puntland, local authorities said they continued to be in daily contact with U.S. military authorities, who fired missiles earlier this month against Islamists purportedly hiding in the region.
The renewed conflict in Kismayo reflects the strategic importance of the port city of about 250,000 people.
Residents were fleeing the Bulo-Gaduud area on Kismayo's outskirts, where the clan-based government forces led by Col. Abdirisaq Afgaduud had been mobilizing for the past several weeks, residents said in telephone interviews.
A fragile cease-fire between militias loyal to the Mareehan and Majeerten sub-clans collapsed Thursday and the fighting broke out late Friday morning. Both sides claimed victory. The two sides have been vying for control of Kismayo since April.
Two weeks ago, government forces in lower Shabelle, in southern Somalia, appeared to be disintegrating as fighting broke out between rival clans there. But the creation of a national unity administration in the area may have quelled the dispute.
(Elmi is a McClatchy Newspapers special correspondent.)