Mogadishu or Mogadisho (both: mŏgədĭshˈō) [key], Ital. Mogadiscio, city (1990 est. pop. 1,200,000), capital of Somalia, on the Indian Ocean. It is the country's largest city, a port, and a commercial and financial center. Mogadishu has little industry except for food and beverage processing and cotton ginning. Uranium ore has been discovered nearby. The city is linked by road with Kenya and Ethiopia and has an international airport. Among its historic buildings are the Mosque of Fakr ad-Din (1269) and Garesa Palace, built in the late 19th cent. for the local administrator of the sultan of Zanzibar and now housing a museum and library. Mogadishu is the seat of the Somalia National Univ.
Mogadishu was settled by Arab colonists c.900, and by the early 12th cent. it had become an important trade center for the east coast of Africa. During the 16th cent. it was controlled by Portugal. In 1871 the city was occupied by the sultan of Zanzibar, who leased it to the Italians in 1892. In 1905 Italy purchased the city and made it the capital of its colony of Italian Somaliland. Mogadishu was captured and occupied during World War II by British forces operating from Kenya.
Rebel forces entered the city in 1990 during Somalia's long civil war. Intense battling between clan-based rebel factions damaged many parts of Mogadishu in 1991 and 1992, and the city continued to be the scene of outbreaks of fighting after 1995, when peacekeeping forces, which arrived in 1992, left. In 2006, however, the militia associated with the Islamic courts seized control of the city from the warlords. Following the courts' ouster in 2007 by Somali government and Ethiopian troops, parts of the city were again devastated by fighting, which continued in subsequent months, becoming increasing violent during 2008. More than half the population was believed to have fled the city by late 2008. Ethiopian troops withdrew from their bases in the city in Jan., 2009. Fighting, at times heavy, continued between government and African Union forces (posted in the city since early 2007) and hard-line Islamists, who had seized and held much of the city until they largely withdrew in 2011. In Apr., 2012, AU forces claimed control of the entire city.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.