A Somali boy looks at the body of a man killed in Mogadishu on Friday.
updated 11/9/2007 4:44:19 PM ET 2007-11-09T21:44:19

Fifty people have died in 24 hours of fighting that began when Ethiopian troops tried to retrieve the body of a soldier dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, witnesses and doctors said Friday.

The latest clashes with Islamic insurgents are among the most violent since April, when battles left at least 1,670 people dead in Mogadishu. Ethiopia has been pushing more troops into the capital in recent days, causing an increase in contact between insurgents and government troops and their Ethiopian allies, residents said.

The latest fighting began Thursday when Ethiopian soldiers tried to retrieve the body of a comrade killed in earlier skirmishes and dragged through the streets of the capital, witnesses said.

Ethiopian troops fired tank shells into the north of the city, hitting a livestock market seen as a hotbed of insurgent supporters, said local resident Abdiaziz Mohamed Guled.

Another witness, Khalif Haji Muse, said eight civilians died and two others were killed when Ethiopian snipers fired at them. Other witnesses said six others died when shells crashed into their homes.

The bodies of 34 people, among them four women and six Ethiopians, were found in the northern and southern parts of Mogadishu, where fighting was intense a day earlier, witnesses said.

The death and subsequent dragging of the Ethiopian soldier recalled images in 1993 of Somali gunmen dragging the bodies of American troops through the streets of Mogadishu after clan militiamen shot down two Black Hawk helicopters and killed 18 American servicemen. Former President Clinton ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Somalia, and a U.N. peacekeeping operation was scaled back and eventually abandoned in 1995. The fighting was portrayed in the book and movie "Black Hawk Down."

Mogadishu has seen little peace since December, when Ethiopian troops backing Somalia's U.N.-backed government ousted an Islamic group called the council of Islamic Courts. This year alone, thousands of Somalis have been killed in fighting between Ethiopian troops and Islamic insurgents who vowed to launch an Iraq-style guerrilla war after they were chased from the capital and much of southern Somalia.

Presidential spokesman Hussein Mohamed Mohamud said insurgents — who want to cast the fighting as a war between Ethiopians and Somali people — would be treated harshly.

"The fighting is between government troops and their Ethiopian friends on one hand, and the peace-haters on the other hand and anyone who hurts Ethiopian or Somali troops will be treated as a traitor," he said.

Doctors at Medina, Keysaney and Daynile hospitals said they have treated 100 civilians with gunshot wounds since Thursday.

On Wednesday, the humanitarian agency Doctors Without Borders said the fighting had grown so bad that civilians who were shot or hit by shrapnel during the night frequently bled to death because the violence cut them off from the hospitals.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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