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The worst fighting in months in the Somali capital between rival militias killed 18 people and wounded more than 130, hospital officials and witnesses said on Monday.

After three days the fighting, between militiamen loyal to leaders Mohamed Aidid and Ali Mahdi Mohamed, eased slightly on Monday.Officials at the Benadir and Digfer hospitals in Aidid's stronghold of south Mogadishu said eight people had died and 76 were admitted with wounds from the street battles.

Officials at hospitals in north Mogadishu, controlled by Ali Mahdi's forces, said 10 people were killed and some 60 were treated for wounds.

Families fled the districts of Bermuda and Hamarweyne on Mon-day amid fears among civilians that a military showdown between the archenemies had started.

Ali Mahdi and Aidid blamed each other's forces for starting the shooting. Ali Mahdi's militiamen were told to prepare for war while their opponents said they were determined to defend themselves.

Tension has mounted since Aidid's supporters elected him president of Somalia in June. His rivals denounced the move and urged the international community not to recognize his government.