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35 dead after weekend fighting in Somali capital

Mortars and machine-gun fire rocked the Somali capital on Sunday, leveling homes and a mosque in renewed violence that has killed at least 35 people.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Mortars and machine-gun fire rocked the Somali capital on Sunday, leveling homes and a mosque in renewed violence that has killed at least 35 people over the weekend as pro-government Islamist fighters clash with gunmen who want to topple the Western-backed government, officials said.

It was some of the worst fighting in weeks in one of the most violent cities in the world, with both sides pounding Mogadishu with mortars and machine-gunfire. Residents were streaming out of the city seeking safety.

Ali Mohamed, a 20-year-old Mogadishu resident, said he was losing all hope for his nation, which has been in chaos since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. Rival clans then turned on each other. And insurgents, since late 2006, have been trying to topple the weak government. The lawlessness also has allowed piracy to explode off the coast.

"The future is bleak," he said.

Corpses in the streets
An Associated Press reporter counted at least 15 corpses in the streets of Mogadishu on Sunday after fighting that started late Saturday. Hospital officials and witnesses in other parts of the city said another five people were killed. Later in the day, a mortar hit a mosque and a nearby home, killing 15 more people, said witness Yasir Mohamed, who counted the corpses and received minor injuries.

Another witness to the violence, Abdinasir Ali, said he recognized six corpses as members of the same family, who were killed when a mortar shell hit their house early Sunday.

Medina hospital official Dahir Mohamed Mohamud said 60 people have been admitted with injuries this weekend.

The violence has pitted pro-government fighters against those allied to al-Shabab, an insurgent group seeking to overthrow the government.

National Security Minister Omar Hashi Aden said sporadic violence was continuing.

Terrorist breeding ground?
The U.S. worries that Somalia could be a terrorist breeding ground, particularly since Osama bin Laden declared his support for al-Shabab. It accuses al-Shabab of harboring the al-Qaida-linked terrorists who allegedly blew up the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

At a conference last month in Brussels, President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed pledged to do "everything imaginable" to stabilize Somalia.

Ahmed, elected by parliament in January, is a former fighter with the Islamic insurgency. He has been trying to broker peace with warring groups and gain legitimacy, but his administration wields little control outside Mogadishu, and needs help from African peacekeepers to do even that.

Fighters opposed to his government see the 4,350 AU peacekeepers as "foreign invaders" and obstacles to peace.