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Somali fighting kills 113 civilians in past 3 days Eds: RESTORES pvs.

world Updated: May 12, 2009 21:21 IST
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Fierce fighting in Somalia's capital has killed 113 civilians in the past three days and forced more than 27,000 to flee their homes, a human rights organization said on Tuesday.

Some 10,000 civilians fled their homes in Mogadishu on Tuesday alone, according to Ali Sheik Yasin Fadhaa of the independent Elman Human Rights Organization.

About 345 civilians have been wounded in what is the worst violence in Mogadishu in recent weeks, he said.

The organization gathered the figures from talking to staff spread across the capital, hospitals and relatives of the victims. The government rarely gives casualty figures.

The renewed violence in the Horn of Africa nation is pitting pro-government fighters against those allied to al-Shabab, an insurgent group seeking to overthrow Somalia's Western-backed government and establish an Islamic state. Over the weekend, both sides pounded the capital with mortars and machine-gunfire. The insurgents have been trying to topple the weak government since late 2006 and the lawlessness also has allowed piracy to explode off Somalia's coast.

Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991, when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. The warlords then turned on each other, plunging the nation into anarchy and chaos. Somalia's transitional government was formed in 2004, but has failed to assert any control over the country. President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed told journalists Monday that the people behind the weekend fighting are against peace, but he is willing to talk with his opponents.

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

Al-Shabab controls much of southern Somalia. Ahmed's government directly controls only a few blocks of Mogadishu and one border town. But the president has allies among the militias that control much of central Somalia and pockets of the south. Ahmed, elected by parliament in January, used to be one of the leaders of the Islamic insurgency. Since his election he has been trying to broker peace with warring groups and gain legitimacy. At a conference last month in Brussels, Ahmed pledged to do "everything imaginable" to stabilize Somalia.