Fresh fighting erupts in Mogadishu

May 11, 2009 12:00 am

, MOGADISHU, May 11 – Fresh fighting broke out in Somalia’s war-riven capital Mogadishu on Monday after days of clashes between government troops and hardline Islamists killed dozens, police and witnesses said.

"The terrorists have attacked our forces in Fagah," police officer Mohamed Abdi told AFP, referring to a northern Mogadishu district.

"The fighting is very heavy and both sides are using machine-guns and anti-aircraft weapons."

Witnesses also confirmed the fighting.

There were no reports of casualties from Monday’s clashes, but days of fighting have so far left nearly 40 people dead and some 200 wounded, most of them civilians.

Earlier Monday, some businesses had reopened and traffic returned to the streets during an hours-long lull in the violence following a bloody attack on a mosque Sunday afternoon.

Clashes had erupted Thursday and intensified at the weekend as the two sides used heavy weapons in battles over control of positions in the city.

Islamist Shebab fighters were earlier seen in their battle vehicles stationed in areas in southern Mogadishu that they claimed to have wrested from the government.

The fighting in recent days has been among the heaviest in months. In February, just after President Sharif Shekh Ahmed was elected, the Shebab launched attacks against government troops, killing dozens.

Hardliners have rejected talks with Ahmed’s government, even after it endorsed plans to introduce Islamic law, a key demand of the opposition militants.

"We express concern over the deteriorating situation and we regret the civilian lives lost," said Sheikh Bashir Ahmed Salad, chairman of a religious panel trying to mediate peace between the two sides.

"We had been contacting both sides in the past week to avoid bloodshed, but they ignored our calls and engaged in fighting that led to civilian casualties," he told AFP.

Mogadishu has been the site of intense clashes since Ethiopian forces rolled into the country in late 2006 to prop up an embattled government against an Islamist movement.


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