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An injured man is carried on a stretcher to Madina hospital after heavy fighting as Somali government and African Union troops battled a powerful militia warlord in a bid to disarm him, on Friday in Mogadishu. / Abdulfitah Hashi Nor, AFP/Getty Images

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) - The sounds of warfare rattled Mogadishu residents from their beds early Friday as government troops launched a dawn attack on a house belonging to a former warlord as part of a disarmament campaign.

Explosions and gunfire were heard as troops battled militiamen loyal to the former warlord. A Somali intelligence official confirmed the operation but insisted on anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

Launched last week, the Somali government's disarmament campaign is an attempt to reduce the number of weapons in the violence-prone city. The government says some 500 guns were recovered during the first four operations. Friday's operation was the fifth.

Fatima Ali, a Mogadishu mother of four, said the battle sent everyone in her house to the ground for safety.

"We are very terrified," she said. "We haven't heard something like this for some time."

Mogadishu, a city that once hosted open weapons markets, is awash in guns, and government officials have said the latest disarmament campaign is an attempt to reduce the number of weapons that could fall into the hands of al-Qaeda-linked fighters

Raids over the last week have netted some 500 guns and hundreds of boxes of ammunition, said Mohamed Yusuf, the spokesman for Somalia's national security ministry.

The Small Arms Survey, a research project based in Switzerland, says world governments in recent years have covertly delivered "tens of thousands of small arms and light weapons to various armed groups in Somalia despite a long-standing U.N. arms embargo."

Somali civilians own more than 500,000 guns, the group estimates.

During the early 1990s, U.S. Marines fighting warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid tried to carry out a disarmament campaign. It had only limited success.

Some Somalis believe the campaign is a political witch hunt aimed at weeding out rivals of the country's leadership as the country gears up for a proposed 2016 national election.

A proposed disarmament law has been approved by the government's cabinet but hasn't yet been voted on by parliament.



Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read the original story: Battle erupts in Mogadishu during disarmament raid

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