Witnesses: Fighting in Somali capital kills 30

Mon, 2008-09-22 21:43 by admin
A Somali man assists a critically wounded man, Monday, Sept. 22, 2008, a victim of a mortar attack on the Bakara market in Mogadishu. Mortars slammed into a market in Somalia's capital Monday, killing up to 30 people and overwhelming hospitals ...

from The Associated Press

MOGADISHU, Somalia September 22, 2008, 12:52 pm ET

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Somalia's warring sides pounded the capital with mortar rounds and gunfire Monday, killing 30 people—including a family of seven—as Islamic insurgents who want to topple the government gain significant power.

Monday's fighting pitted insurgents against government forces and their Ethiopian allies, who come under regular attack in Mogadishu, one of the most violent cities in the world. The violence left bodies in city streets. When the blasts calmed, young men ventured out to transport the gravely wounded to hospitals in rickety wheelbarrows.

"There is blood everywhere, and human flesh on the walls," Abshir Mohamed Ali, a shop owner at Bakara market, where much of the fighting was centered, told The Associated Press.

The fighting began after Islamic insurgents fired mortars at the capital's main airport and the presidential palace, said Ali Mohamed Siyad, who chairs Bakara market traders' association. Soon after, government forces and their Ethiopian allies retaliated with mortars and gunfire.

In the past, government officials have suspected insurgents use Bakara market as a base.

Islamic militants with ties to al-Qaida have been fighting the government and its Ethiopian allies for control since their combined forces pushed the Islamists from the capital in December 2006. Within weeks of being driven out, the Islamists launched an Iraq-style insurgency that has killed thousands of civilians to date.

In recent weeks, the militants appear to be gaining strength and sidelining the fragile government. The group, known as the Council of Islamic Courts, has taken over the port town of Kismayo, Somalia's third-largest city, and dismantled pro-government roadblocks. They also effectively closed the Mogadishu airport by threatening to attack any plane using it.

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