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6 Somali civilians killed in violence in Mogadishu

Monday, August 30, 2010

NAIROBI, Kenya — Fighting in Somalia's capital killed at least six civilians on Monday as clashes between Islamist militants and pro-government forces entered a second week.

The weak, U.N.-backed Somali government appealed for more international help to beat back al-Shabab militants. The al-Qaida-linked insurgents threatened a new "massive" war last week, a pledge that has been followed by eight straight days of fighting.

More than 70 civilians have been killed and at least 230 others wounded since Aug. 23, said Ali Muse, the head of Mogadishu's voluntary ambulance service.

Muse said three women were killed Monday after a mortar crashed into the women's section of the busy Bakara market in the southern part of the capital, while three other civilians died in different parts of the city. He said 17 others were also wounded after they were caught up in the heavy exchanges of fire between the warring parties.

The exchange of mortars and artillery shells comes as Somalia's embattled government appealed for more help in its fight against the militants, who control much of the country's southern and central regions, including large portions of the capital, Mogadishu.

President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed said it was unrealistic to expect the forces of an ill-equipped government "to contain the evil al-Qaida-al-Shabab alliance." He said the militants aimed to destabilize the region and beyond.

Last Tuesday al-Shabab militants wearing Somali military uniforms stormed a hotel favored by lawmakers in the war-battered capital and killed 32 people, including four parliamentarians. The president compared the hotel attack to violence in Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan and renewed his pledge for international support.

"The Somali government has neither similar support nor nearly as much resources as those countries have. Yet it's facing similar, if not more potent enemy," he said.

Al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaida and boasts veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars among its ranks, has grown deadlier in recent months. Last month, it claimed twin bombings in Uganda during the World Cup final, killing 76 people.

Somalia's fragile, U.N.-backed government has struggled for years to gain relevancy, but corruption and its minuscule footprint in the country — just a few city blocks near the seaside airport and the airport — have limited its effectiveness.

Somalia has not had an effective government for 19 years, allowing piracy to flourish off its coast.

Source: AP