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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Defiant Somali Warlord Dies of Combat Wound

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- Somali faction leader Mohamed Farah Aideed, whose rag-tag militia humbled the U.S. military, has died from wounds after clan fighting, aides said Friday.

Aideed led his fighters against the might of the United States in 1993, driving a UN peacekeeping force out of Somalia before declaring himself president and forming a government which was recognized neither at home nor abroad.

His death came more than a week after he was hit by bullets on the frontline in south Mogadishu in clan fighting largely sparked by his thirst for power.

Optimists among Somalis and foreign aid workers hoped peace might now come to the Horn of Africa country after half a decade of violence.

Aideed's supporters killed dozens of U.S.-led peacekeepers sent in 1993 to restore order in Somalia, which was torn by fighting between rival clans and in the grip of famine.

His fighters downed two U.S. helicopters in October 1993, killed 18 U.S. army rangers and dragged some of the bodies through the streets of Mogadishu.

The U.S. forces pulled out in March 1994 after their worst losses in battle since Vietnam. The rest of the UN peacekeepers left in 1995, leaving lawless Somalia to its fate.

Aideed died at his home in the south of the divided capital on Thursday afternoon from bullet wounds, aides said.

He was to be buried in southern Mogadishu, according to a radio station operated by his faction, which broadcast prayers and solemn music.

Its leaders ordered a 30-day mourning period as Aideed's body lay in state at a mosque before the funeral planned for after Friday's Moslem prayers.

The radio broadcast prayers and solemn music between religious programs.

Aideed was reliably reported to have been badly hurt on July 24 in south Mogadishu in fighting against his arch-rivals Osman Hassan Ali Atto and Ali Mahdi Mohamed.

Aideed's fighters with their "technical" battlewagons, have been on the defensive since early April, slowly losing ground to the coalition ranged against them.

Witnesses said the faction leader was hit by two bullets in fighting -- one in the stomach and one in the shoulder. Aides had brought in an Italian doctor to treat him. South Mogadishu and the north of the city, controlled by Ali Mahdi, were unusually calm after news of his death, witnesses said.

Aideed's radio said leaders of the United Somali Congress-Somali National Alliance appointed a 30-member committee to take charge of political and military affairs and hoped to announce a new leader soon. The titular head is Abdurahman Ahmed Ali Tur, vice-president in Aideed's "government."

An aid official said prospects for peace in Somalia had probably improved with the death of Aideed, whose faction is still militarily the strongest single force among Somalia's myriad militias.

"Normally one should feel sad when someone dies, but it's difficult. He has been responsible for so many other people dying," said the senior aid official who said Aideed was responsible for much of Somalia's continuing trouble.