53 Somalis killed in latest fighting
Fighting between Somali government troops and Islamic insurgents killed 53 people in one day in Mogadishu, a human rights group said on Saturday. Residents reported that the operation had failed to dislodge the insurgents.

Ali Sheik Yasi, the deputy chairman of Elman Human Rights Organisation, said 181 people were wounded during Friday's government offensive in Mogadishu. Elman collates casualty figures based on interviews with health officials, morgues and witnesses.

More than 150 people have been killed since the latest round of fighting began two weeks ago.

Hassan Mahdi, a spokesman for the insurgent alliance known as the Islamic Party, said government soldiers tried to push the insurgents away from neighbourhoods they had recently gained but the militants retained their positions.

Resident Abdi Haji said there was no fighting on Saturday but the insurgents appeared to be still in control. The government was not immeadiately available for comment.

Fleeing residents: Meanwhile, as soon as things calmed down terrified residents fled the Somali capital on Saturday.

"The city is quiet this (Saturday) morning and many people are fleeing to avoid upcoming attacks, I think the government is planning a further offensive," said Somali police officer Colonel Mohamed Adan.

A witness, Abdulahi Warsameh, corroborated his information, saying, "Many residents have emptied their houses in (the) Wardhigley (district) because they fear new clashes."

The Somali capital has been ravaged by 18 years of almost uninterrupted civil conflict and emptied of hundreds of thousands of residents by the violent fighting that followed Ethiopia's 2006 invasion.
Posted by: Fred 2009-05-24