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Battles rage in Mogadishu: at least 12 killed

Mogadishu - Fighting between insurgents and government troops rocked the Somali capital Mogadishu Wednesday, leaving at least 12 people killed, officials said, in ongoing clashes that have killed thousands since January 2007.

The battle, which broke out in northern Mogadishu, was the worst in a month as each side fired machine guns, lobbed grenades and flung mortars at the other.

The escalated fighting came as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said peacekeepers might be sent to Somalia should certain conditions, like an agreed ceasefire, be met.

'I woke up hearing residents yelling as they were escaping Ethiopian soldiers in the streets,' said Leylo Mo'alim, 29.

Doctors and nurses said at least 20 people were admitted to hospitals around the bullet-scarred capital.

'Insurgents tried to retrieve the bodies on the road but the crossfire rained down from both sides so they were unable,' said Mahad Sadeek, who witnessed the clash.

The Ethiopian-backed transitional government rolled into the capital in January 2007, unleashing a brutal, Iraq-style insurgency that has displaced more than 600,000 people in what the UN calls the world's worst and most neglected humanitarian crisis.

Somalia has had no effective central rule since the 1991 toppling of dictator Mohammed Siad Barre, which plunged the Horn of Africa country into lawlessness and insecurity.

SOURCE: Monster and Critics, March 19, 2008