Fights between Islamists and Somali gov’t kills 17

Fights between Islamists and Somali gov’t kills 17
# 10 March 2010 19:54 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. Fighting between Islamist insurgents and government forces killed at least 17 people in the Somali capital on Wednesday, a medical official said, APA reports quoting Associated Press.
The head of the Mogadishu ambulance service, Ali Muse, said Wednesday’s fighting also wounded 65 people. The death toll was the highest reported in weeks and most of the dead and wounded were civilians.
Resident Ahmed Ali said the fighting began when al-Shabab insurgents attacked government positions in the north of the city. He said the insurgents briefly overran the government positions but were then pushed back.
A spokesman for the insurgency, Sheik Ali Mohamoud Rage, said that the Islamists had taken two government positions but denied they had been recaptured. Government spokesmen were not immediately available for comment.
There has been an uptick in fighting since the beginning of the year when the government announced plans for an offensive to wrest control of the capital from the Islamists. Fourteen people were killed a week ago when the two sides mortared each other in residential neighborhoods.
Human rights groups say both the government and the Islamists use machine-guns, mortars and other weapons indiscriminately.
Somalia has not had a functioning government for a generation, since clan warlords overthrew a socialist dictator in 1991. They then turned on each other, and the Islamist movement — which held the capital and much of the south for the second half of 2006 — was the first force that built lasting alliances across clan lines.
But Somalia’s neighbor Ethiopia pushed the Islamists from power in December that year with American support amid concerns the Islamists had terrorist links. Now the weak U.N.-backed government is battling an alliance of fragmented Islamist groups. The government is supported by more than 5,000 African Union troops.
Neither the government or the Islamists are powerful enough to decisively take and hold territory, leading to a bloody stalemate with Somalia’s civilians caught in the middle.
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