MOGADISHU - Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi has sacked four ministers, also warlords, who were involved in deadly clashes with Islamic courts militia over control of the lawless capital and its northern outskirts, officials said on Monday.
Gedi fired national security minister Mohamed Afrah Qanyare, commerce minister Musa Sudi Yalahow, militia rehabilitation minister Issa Botan Alin and religious affairs minister Omar Muhamoud Finnish, a government spokesman said.
"The prime minister, chairing the council of ministers, has sacked all the cabinet members who have been involved in the fighting," Abdirahman Nur Mohamed Dinari said.
The four warlords, members of the US-backed Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT), had defied several orders to stop fighting with Mogadishu's increasingly powerful 11 Islamic courts since February.
In the latest clashes on Sunday, the Islamic gunmen seized control of the strategic town of Balad township, around 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of Mogadishu, as the alliance fighters fled to the regional town of Jowhar, about 60 kilometers to the north.
The seizure of Balad, a strategic supply town for the warlords, put the Islamic courts within striking distance of Jowhar, which is controlled by warlord and leading alliance member, Mohamed Omar Habeb, and home to several aid agencies.
In addition, Gedi invited the Islamic courts to take part in dialogue with a view to ending the clashes that erupted in February and have so far claimed at least 347 lives and injured more than 1,500 others, many of them civilians.
"The prime minister has invited the Islamic courts for dialogue," Dinari said.
The largely powerless Somali transitional government is based in the regional town of Baidoa, about 250 kilometres, northwest of the capital.
The ARPCT, formed in February, has reportedly received financial and intelligence support from the United States to help fight the Islamic courts, accused of harbouring foreign fighters and having links with extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda.
The courts, which have declared a holy war against the alliance, deny the accusations and claim the warlords are fighting for the "enemy of Islam". The United States has refused to confirm or deny its support for the ARPCT.