Somali fighting kills 113 civilians in past three days

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MOGADISHU, Somalia — Fierce fighting in Somalia’s capital has killed 113 civilians in the past three days and forced more than 27,000 to flee their homes, a human rights organization said Tuesday.

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Fierce fighting in Somalia’s capital has killed 113 civilians in the past three days and forced more than 27,000 to flee their homes, a human rights organization said Tuesday. Some 10,000 civilians fled their homes in Mogadishu on Tuesday alone, according to Ali Sheik Yasin Fadhaa of the independent Elman Human Rights Organization. About 345 civilians have been wounded in what has become Mogadishu’s worst violence in recent weeks, he said. The organization gathered the figures from talking to hospitals, victims’ relatives and staff spread across the capital. The renewed violence in the Horn of Africa nation is pitting pro-government fighters against those allied to al-Shabab, an insurgent group seeking to overthrow Somalia’s Western-backed government and establish an Islamic state. Over the weekend, both sides pounded the capital with mortars and machine-gunfire. National Security Minister Omar Hashi Aden said the government would crack down on the insurgents and said some of them were foreigners. "They are anarchists," Aden told The Associated Press. "We will continue the fighting until we eliminate these elements." Aden said 15 government fighters have been killed in the violence, and that civilian casualties could be high, though the government did not have any figures. Among the insurgents, 19 foreigners — 12 Pakistanis and seven Yemenis — have also been killed, he said. Both the top U.S. diplomat for Africa and the U.N. envoy to Somalia condemned the violence. "The U.S encourages a quick end to hostilities," Johnnie Carson, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said in neighboring Kenya’s capital of Nairobi. U.N. envoy Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah said "there is now a legitimate, internationally recognized government in Mogadishu, which should be supported. Instead, irresponsible elements backed by foreigners have attacked Mogadishu in an attempt to seize power by force." Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991, when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre before turning on one another. Somalia’s transitional government was formed in 2004 but has failed to assert any control over the country. The insurgents have been trying to topple the government since late 2006, and the lawlessness has allowed piracy to explode off Somalia’s coast. President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed told journalists Monday that the people behind the weekend fighting are against peace, but he said he was willing to talk with his opponents. The U.S. also worries that Somalia could be a terrorist breeding ground, particularly since Osama bin Laden declared his support for al-Shabab. The U.S. also accuses al-Shabab of harboring the al-Qaida-linked terrorists who allegedly blew up the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Al-Shabab controls much of southern Somalia. Ahmed’s government directly controls only a few blocks of Mogadishu and one border town. But the president has allies among the militias that control much of central Somalia and pockets of the south. Ahmed, once one of the Islamic insurgency’s leaders, has been trying to broker peace with the warring groups since he was elected by parliament in January. Last month, he pledged at a Brussels conference to do "everything imaginable" to stabilize Somalia. Associated Press writers Mohamed Sheikh Nor in Mogadishu and Tom Odula in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report. ______ Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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