At least 10 people were killed and 30 others wounded on the eighth straight day of fighting in the Somali capital Mogadishu, as the government replaced the current military chief, Radio Garowe reports.
Most of Thursday's fighting was concentrated in northern Mogadishu, with fighting reported in the districts of Yaaqshiid, Kaaraan and Wardhigley.
Residents said the Islamist rebels and government forces fought over control of strategic roads and checkpoints, and the fighting had spread out to relatively calmer districts like Bondhere and Shibis.
"I saw seven dead bodies...three of the bodies were civilians killed in a mortar explosion," said a witness, adding that the fighting was spreading to new neighborhoods.
Hundreds of people were fleeing their homes as the warring sides used heavy weapons, including mortars that hit far-away neighborhoods.
Among the wounded people were two reporters working for Capital FM and Sahan FM radio stations in Mogadishu who were wounded during the clashes and were receiving medical treatment at a local hospital, the radio owners reported.
The districts in northern Mogadishu have been under government control and the Islamist rebels' are advancing and continue to capture new areas from government forces.
New military chief
Gen. Said "Dheere" Mohamed who was appointed as military chief in 2008 by then-Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf has been officially replaced during a Thursday vote by the Council of Ministers, a government official said.
Information Minister Farhan Ali Mohamud told a Mogadishu press conference that Gen. Yusuf Osman "Dhumal" has been appointed the country's new military chief.
Minister Mohamud did not provide any details as to Gen. Said Dheere's replacement.
But Gen. Dhumal was previously a senior police commander in charge of investigations and has now been switched to lead the government's war campaign.
Gen. Said Dheere, who hails from the stable northern region of Puntland, confirmed that he has been replaced and is now "national security advisor" to the Somali president, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.
"The fighting in Mogadishu [since 7 May] has lead to 130 deaths, 420 wounded persons and more than 18,000 displaced civilians," the Information Minister said.
Islamist hardliners, like Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, have spearheaded an armed campaign to overthrow Somalia's U.N.-recognized interim government.