12 July 2009

Somalia: AU Peacekeepers Back Govt Forces, 45 Killed

Mogadishu — At least 45 people were killed in the second day of violence in the Somali capital Mogadishu, with reports saying African Union peacekeepers (AMISOM) were directly involved in the fierce fighting, Radio Garowe reports.

The fighting started Sunday after insurgents moved closer to the Villa Somalia presidential palace, where President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed is guarded by AMISOM peacekeepers.

AMISOM spokesman Bahoku Barigye admitted that the African peacekeepers took "some limited action," but denied reports that the peacekeepers were fully involved in the fighting.

Residents in north Mogadishu reported that artillery fire hit many areas, including residential zones where civilians were killed and wounded.

"We killed more than 40 Al Shabaab fighters and three soldiers died on our side," said Mogadishu's deputy mayor, Abdifatah Shaweye.

Yusuf Indho Ade, an ex-warlord who is now fighting on the side of the government, held a press conference in front of Keysaney Hospital, which was previously under the control of insurgents.

"As you can see, we have achieved victory," Indho Ade told reporters, adding that government forces captured weapons and armed trucks. "The President [Sheikh Sharif] ordered the battle."

Shells that hit Mogadishu's Bakara Market wounded at least three people, witnesses said.

More than 125 wounded victims were rushed to Medina, Keysaney and Daynile hospitals. Insurgent spokesman did not speak about today's fierce battles.

The death toll from two days of fighting has now reached at least 70 deaths, including many civilians.

Mogadishu has been plagued by insurgent violence since 2007. President Sheikh Sharif's interim government, which was appointed last January, is struggling to get control of the Somali capital with AMISOM military support.

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