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More Fighting in Somali Capital; Burundi to Send Peacekeepers

By VOA News
14 December 2007

Witnesses report more shelling and gunfire in Somalia's capital Friday as Islamist insurgents battle the government and Ethiopian troops.

Residents of north Mogadishu say two women were shot and killed trying to cross a road Friday, bringing the two-day death toll from the fighting to at least 19 people.

Ethiopia is blaming the insurgents for the mortar attack in Mogadishu's Bakara market on Thursday that killed 12 people and wounded some 40 others.

In a statement, the Ethiopian Information Ministry also said Ethiopian and Somali government troops killed 75 Islamist fighters during a surprise attack in northwest Mogadishu on Thursday. There has been no confirmation of the incident from other sources.

The African Union said today that Burundi will send a battalion of peacekeepers to Somalia by the end of this month.

Nicolas Bwakira, the AU special envoy to Somalia, also said Nigeria will send forces to Somalia within two or three months. The troops will join about 1,600 Ugandans who arrived last March as the vanguard of an AU peacekeeping force.

The force has done little to stop the chronic violence in Mogadishu. Nearly 12 months of fighting have killed thousands of Somalis, and forced more than a half million others to flee the capital.

In comments to reporters this week, Sheikh Qasim Ibrahim Nur, a director at the government security ministry, said Islamist fighters have increased both their numbers and their attacks.

The Reuters news agency quotes Nur as saying the reinforcements are fighters from Afghanistan, Chechnya and Arab nations.

Nur said that 80 percent of Somalia is at risk.

The Islamist insurgency began soon after the government and Ethiopian troops drove an Islamist movement from power in Mogadishu late last year. The Somali transitional government has struggled to assert authority since its formation in 2004.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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