Fighting in Somalia's anarchic capital Mogadishu entered a fourth day Thursday, as African Union-backed Somali interim government forces continued street clashes and artillery exchanges with Islamist insurgents, Radio Garowe reports.
Various sources, including medical workers and government officials, have confirmed a death toll of at least 115 people, including 33 people killed inside Hotel Muna on Tuesday in a brazen Al Shabaab militant attack that killed the deaths of six Members of Parliament (MPs). The Al Shabaab fighters shot the hotel guests one-by-one and then blew themselves up in a suicide bombing.
On Thursday, government forces claimed to have repelled an attack near the Villa Somalia presidential palace after Al Shabaab fighters attacked.
Government officials say they have killed at least 25 Al Shabaab fighters over the past four days, but independent sources say most of the dead bodies littered along Mogadishu's dangerous streets belonged to civilians.
Medical workers say at least 200 wounded persons have been rushed to area hospitals, while hundreds of people have fled Mogadishu towards the safe zones south of the restive city.
Mogadishu traders say business has come to a virtual standstill, as Bakara Market, a notorious stronghold for the insurgents, has been closed since Monday due to intense shelling.
Al Shabaab fighters say they have seized many locations, including the strategic Dabka junction that was a government stronghold.
AU peacekeepers, known as AMISOM, were involved in some of the fighting and are accused of shelling residential areas in response to militant attacks.
Al Shabaab, a militant group with foreign fighters among its ranks that has led the Somali insurgency since 2007, says it was to topple the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government led by President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, former head of an Islamist umbrella group that included Al Shabaab four years ago.
Last week, Al Shabaab spokesman Ali Dheere promised a "massive war" against Somali government forces and their AMISOM allies.
The international community, including Somalia's neighbors, have remained silent as the carnage of Mogadishu continues nonstop. Al Shabaab controls all regions in Somalia south of self-governing Puntland State in northeast Somalia, including control over most districts in Mogadishu.
The TFG is cornered to a few districts and remains under constant attacks.