Muslims Denounce U.S., Demand Islamic Law at Somalia Rally

Thousands of Somalis denounced the United States and called for Islamic law at a protest Friday in the war-torn capital, where Islamic militias have been battling a secular alliance.

Eleven people were killed in fighting in the capital's northern suburbs and four people died in the city when a booby-trapped bicycle exploded.

A Muslim leader at the rally called the U.S. an enemy of Islam and said Washington had been supporting the secular warlords, whose battle with Islamist fighters has spawned some of Somalia's worst fighting in 15 years of anarchy.

CountryWatch: Somalia

"We know the enemy of Islam, particularly the U.S. government, is funding the evil alliance," Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, chairman of the Islamic Courts Union, told a crowd of roughly 5,000 demonstrators guarded by nearly 200 armed militiamen.

Some in the crowd carried signs saying: "We need Islamic sharia law, we don't need a man-made constitution," and "Down with the U.S.!"

The U.S. is widely believed to be supporting the secular alliance but American officials have refused to confirm or deny that.

The alliance accuses the self-appointed Islamic court leaders of having links to al-Qaida. The Islamic fundamentalists say they are capable of bringing order to the country. Their growing power is raising fears that the nation could follow the path of Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Nearly 100 people have died in Mogadishu since May 24. Many victims have been civilians caught in the crossfire, and more than 1,500 people have been injured.

Hundreds have fled to avoid the violence.

Somalia hasn't had an effective government since 1991, when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other, carving this nation of an estimated 8 million people into rival fiefdoms.

The United States has carried out no direct action in Somalia since the last intervention resulted in the deaths of 18 servicemen in a 1993 battle made famous by the film "Black Hawk Down."

The Islamic militias are gaining ground just as a U.N.-backed transitional government struggles to assert control outside its base in Baidoa, 155 miles from Mogadishu.