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Fresh, Deadly Battles Reported in Somali Capital

By VOA News
20 March 2008

Residents of Somalia's capital say six people were killed in fighting between Islamist insurgents and government troops.

Witnesses say the clashes erupted Thursday near a market in Mogadishu, in the Howlawadag neighborhood. At least two soldiers are reported to have been killed.

Residents say fighting Wednesday in northern Mogadishu involving Islamists and Ethiopian troops backing the Somali government killed at least eight people.

At the United Nations Thursday, the Security Council reviewed various options for increased U.N. involvement in Somalia, including the possible deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalizad, said the U.N. is not close to deploying peacekeeping forces to Somalia.

The U.N. assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping operations Edmond Mulet expressed concerns to the council about sending peacekeepers into Somalia while the security situation is volatile.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report this week that he is prepared to recommend sending U.N. peacekeepers to Somalia if key conditions are met.

Mr. Ban said those conditions include an agreement by the country's major factions to cease hostilities and share power. He said another condition is the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops who currently support the transitional government.

The Somali government and its Ethiopian allies have been battling an Islamist insurgency for more than a year. The insurgency began after a joint Somali-Ethiopian offensive drove a militant Islamist movement from power in southern Somalia in late 2006.

The fighting has killed thousands of people in Mogadishu alone and forced at least a half million others to flee the city.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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