Mogadishu: Fighting raged in Mogadishu Tuesday after Al Qaeda-inspired extremists launched an offensive which the government said was a declaration of war on the Somali people, leaving 29 civilians dead.
The government also said it had killed more than 15 insurgents belonging to the Shebab extremists in the worst clashes since the July 11 suicide attacks in Kampala claimed by the group escalated the conflict.
The fighting broke out on Monday afternoon when Shebab fighters launched an offensive on army barracks in several districts of the capital.
The battle resumed on Tuesday morning after an overnight lull.
"The death toll increased from 11 to 29 civilians since yesterday. Our medical teams have also collected 98 injured from a number of neighbourhoods," Ali Muse, head of Mogadishu ambulance services, told AFP.
"Heavy fighting resumed this morning around several frontlines including Holwadag, Hodan and Bondhere area," Colonel Mohamed Omar, a Somali government security officer, said.
"Government forces are inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy, we killed more than 15 of their fighters," he claimed, without specifying whether the fighting had caused any casualties among his own ranks.
Civilians in the seaside Somali capital routinely get caught in the crossfire when government forces backed by Burundian and Ugandan African Union forces trade mortar and artillery rounds with the insurgents.
"The fighting re-erupted this morning and there is a heavy exchange of artillery fire, the casualties are reaching their highest levels," said Ali Muse, who only has seven ambulances to cover the entire city.
In the Bakara market area, a Shebab stronghold, shops were closed Tuesday and witnesses said armoured vehicles from the African mission (AMISOM) had moved in to support the government`s military effort.
"We are trapped inside our houses and we cannot go outside because of the fighting," said Abdullahi HUssein, a resident of Mogadishu`s northern flashpoint of Bondhere.
"I can hear the tanks of the African peacekeepers engaging their opponents and firing artillery rounds," he added.