Death toll rises, civilians flee from Mogadishu's renewed violence

11:33, March 14, 2010      

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The fighting of the past days in the Somali capital Mogadishu has claimed the lives of more than 100 and wounded 150 others with thousands of civilians uprooted from their homes, analysts say.

The Mogadishu fighting erupted Wednesday after weeks of speculation of a major Somali government offensive on rebel forces who control substantial parts of the capital.

Most of the clashes center around the north Mogadishu districts, the rebel strongholds, where most of the civilians casualties were reported. Families in the area are vacating their homes.

"We now know that as many as 100 people or more were killed since Wednesday and more than 150 others were wounded while thousands of people fled their homes, but despite the claims by both sides the frontlines remain the same," Yusuf Iman, a political analysts in Mogadishu, told Xinhua.

The Somali government's declared aim of the fighting was to retake areas under rebel control in Mogadishu at least during the first phase of the offensive, while rebel commanders have been vowing to "finish off" the Somali government. "None of them, as far as we know, have achieved their stated aims but what we are seeing is that civilians bearing the brunt of much of the violence," said Ahmed Ali, another Somalia conflict observer in Mogadishu .

Somali officials advised residents in the areas where the fighting was continuing to vacate the areas to avoid harm. Many seem to have taken heed of the government call and left their homes.

There has been much speculation about a U. S. plan to help the Somali government in its onslaught to drive the rebels from their strong-holds in Mogadishu, but U. S. officials came out on Friday to officially deny such intentions.

While both Somali government officials and Islamist groups welcomed the U. S. involvement in the conflict, they had diametrically opposing reasons for their stances.

Analysts contend that U. S. officials denied the media reports not to give the Islamist a "rallying cry" to gain support for their war against the Somali government which they painted as a "puppet" of Washington.

"The American confirmation earlier of their intention and their later denial seem that they have realized that was giving a "rallying cry" just as they used it for the Ethiopian intervention, " said Iman,

"The U. S. does not want to Americanize the Somalia conflict, thus giving the rebels the hearts and minds of locals who are against any foreign intervention in their country."

More of intelligence sharing, logistics support and aerial surveillances are what the United States intends to provide, but it seems unlikely to see U. S. soldiers roaming in the streets of the Somali capital Mogadishu, backing government forces in the fight with Islamists just as the African Union forces have been doing for the past three days, observers says.

The weak but internationally recognized government of Somalia has been fighting deadly with Islamist insurgents for years in a bid to regain control of the whole war-torn country.

Islamist rebels control much of the south and central Somalia, including large parts of the capital Mogadishu. The terrorist movement of Al Shabaab, the strongest of the insurgents, wants to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic state in the Horn of African nation.

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