There weren't many of them. They didn't make much of a rumpus. They merely gathered outside Room 710 in one of the Watergate buildings yesterday and got arrested, a local link in a political chain that stretches to the eastern African nation of Somalia.

In all, seven people were detained by officers of the Secret Service Uniformed Division during a protest at the Somali Embassy rooted in the war for control of that country.

Conflicting reports have emerged in recent days about whether the government of Mohamed Siad Barre or rebel groups control the capital of Mogadishu. But the protesters -- all sympathetic to the rebels -- said embassy personnel here no longer could claim to represent the government and should cease official action.

"We just don't want them to act as diplomats," said Abdullahi Mohamed, the leader of the local chapter of one of the rebel groups, the United Somali Congress.

Mohamed, who stood in a small knot of protesters on New Hampshire Avenue after their seven colleagues were removed, said the demonstrators will return regularly to challenge the embassy's legitimacy and to show support for the rebels and loved ones back home.

"We wanted to show the world, to sound the alarm, that no matter where we are, we are concerned about the people," said Mohamed, 34, a limousine driver from Centreville who said that most of the several thousand Somalis in the Washington area had moved here in quest of education or asylum.

But Abdi A. Jama, the Somali charge d'affaires, said that his government remained in control of the country and that the protesters' allegation that the embassy had no legitimacy was "pure baloney."

"Let me categorically deny that they {the rebels} are in control of one district of Mogadishu. They are not in control of any," Jama said in a telephone interview, adding there was little fighting and the situation was normal.

But a spokeswoman for the State Department said "heavy fighting continued" for a fourth day in the Somalian capital and "it is not possible to say which forces have the upper hand in the fighting or are in control of what locations."

She added that contact with both sides has been difficult and the United States was uncertain of Siad Barre's whereabouts. The Bush administration has decided to evacuate all U.S. personnel, she said.

At the embassy, protesters said that many embassy officials were merely relatives of prominent government officials in Somalia and did little work. They also said that despite widespread poverty in the country, officials here drove expensive cars and lived in comfort.

"I wish you could speak with them," said Ilias Ibrahim, 31, a taxi driver, referring to embassy workers who allegedly do little diplomatic work. "Nobody can speak English. It's terrible. The whole country is corrupt."

"They have more diplomatic cars than America has in Somalia," said Mohamed.

Jama called the charges childish and said they were made by "disgruntled taxi drivers who perhaps failed in their studies here or in their life."

Mark Rupert, a spokesman for the Secret Service Uniformed Division, said the seven protesters were charged with blocking the entrance to an embassy, a misdemeanor, and would be subject to a fine.