Mogadishu: At least 21 Somali civilians were
killed on Thursday and 59 wounded in fierce Mogadishu clashes
pitting government forces backed by African Union troops
against Islamist insurgents, medics said.
The fighting broke out when newly-trained government
forces backed by the soldiers of the African Union mission in
Somalia (AMISOM) apparently launched a major offensive to
recapture key Mogadishu neighbourhoods.
The internationally-backed government had lost ground
last month when insurgents, mainly from the Al Qaeda-inspired
Shebab movement, punched through a strategic frontline and
closed in on the presidential compound.
"The Somali government forces advanced on the terrorists`
strongholds this morning," Colonel Ahmed Ibrahim, a government
security official, told agency.
"They took control of several neighbourhoods which had
been held by the rebels and the fighting is still going on.
There are several bodies strewn across the streets," he added.
Medical sources counted at least 21 civilian deaths after
the first few hours of fighting but expected the toll to rise,
with no immediate information on combatant casualties and
several areas impossible to access independently.