Heavy shelling and gunfire in Mogadishu killed three people and wounded about 30 in the battle between government and rebel forces for Somalia's capital, witnesses said. It was the second day of an offensive by the UN-backed government trying to regain neighborhoods won by the Islamic insurgents in recent weeks.
Resident Abdul Khadir Hassan Hussein said two men and a women were killed in Saturday's bombardment in southern areas of Mogadishu. Ali Muse, a coordinator with African Life-line and Nation Link Ambulance service, said around 30 people were wounded by the shelling and six others by gunfire.
The presidential palace also was hit by two mortars, said presidential guard Mohamed Abdi Ali, but no one was injured there. A human rights group said 53 people were killed in the capital in on Friday and 181 wounded.
Somali insurgents said earlier Saturday that despite the battle the previous day, they continued to hold their positions. Residents reported that the government operation had failed to dislodge the Islamists.
But Defense Minister Mohamed Abdi Gandi said the government offensive had been a success. When asked to elaborate, given that residents reported government troops had retreated to the areas they held before the push, he declined to comment.
A lull in the fighting was reported earlier Saturday, but resident Omar Abdukahi said shelling began later when reinforcements arrived for the insurgents.
The center of the city had been heavily shelled Friday. Both sides fired mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and truck-mounted anti-aircraft missiles into residential areas.
The Elman Human Rights Organisation compiled Friday's casualty figures from interviews with health officials, morgues and witnesses.
Since the renewal of fighting two weeks ago, the Islamic insurgents had captured several strategic locations in Mogadishu. Despite successes, they failed to gain control of key installations, including the airport and presidential palace, which are guarded by African Union peacekeepers.
The two main Islamist insurgent groups, the Islamic Party and al-Shabab, formed an alliance a month ago. Although the two groups have differing aims, they agreed to work together to overthrow Somalia's new government, headed by their former ally President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed. They consider Ahmed a traitor for signing a peace deal with the previous administration which paved the way for him to become president.
The UN has said some 49,000 people had fled the capital, and the humanitarian situation was dire. Many families camped out under trees or by the side of roads, sheltered by nothing more than a few scraps of plastic, without access to food or water. Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a socialist dictator then turned on each other.