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21 die as AU forces engage Islamist rebels in Mogadishu fighting
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09:23, July 13, 2009

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The African Union (AU) peacekeeping forces were directly involved in fighting between the Somali government forces and Islamist insurgent fighters on Sunday, leaving almost 21 people dead and more than 60 others wounded, officials, and medical sources said.

"We are engaging with the insurgents because they have crossed a red line by threatening the African Union peacekeeping forces in Mogadishu," Bahoku Barigye, the spokesman for the African Union peacekeeping Mission in Somalia (AMSOM), told Xinhua.

The spokesman added that AMISOM forces, who until now have avoided being directly involved in the fighting between the government forces and insurgent fighters, would pursue the rebels who have withdrawn from several key positions they held in north Mogadishu.

The nearly 4, 300 troops from mainly Uganda and Burundi are part of an envisaged 8, 000- strong African Union Peacekeeping forces, have the limited mandate of protecting senior government officials and important government installations in the Somali capital Mogadishu.

The clashes broke out after the Somali government forces backed by the African union peacekeeping troops in Mogadishu attacked positions of Islamist rebel fighters,

Local ambulance service official Ali Muse said nearly 11 dead people were spotted by ambulance drivers as they tried to take almost 31 wounded people mostly civilians to the main Mogadishu hospital.

"We expect the causality figures to increase from 11 dead and 31 wounded because the fighting is still continuing and some of the ambulances have been sent to take more wounded people around the areas of the fighting," Ali Muse told Xinhua.

Another ambulance service said that almost 10 other people were killed while ambulances ferried 29 others to different hospitals in the restive Somali capital Mogadishu.

Somali government officials said forces have gained new grounds on Sunday after confrontation with insurgent rebels who have lately been positioned around the presidential palace which the African union forces are protecting.

On Saturday the Somali government said its forces killed a foreign fighter fighting alongside the Islamist insurgent group which denied that the body of a dead man killed by the government troops was that of a foreign fighter, claiming it was that of one of the local "fair-skinned ethnic groups in Somalia".

The Somali government has been alleging that hundreds of foreign militants are fighting alongside the radical Islamist group of Al Shabaab, a movement that controls much of southern and central Somalia.

Source: Xinhua

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