381 dead from Somalia fighting

“For the last four days we have registered 381 deaths and 565 people wounded,” said Sudan Ali Ahmed, chairman of Elman Human Rights Organisation.


The death toll could be higher, Mr Ahmed said, as it did not include Ethiopian casualties. The figures were calculated from hospital figures, local resident groups in Mogadishu and burials.

The majority of the 381 dead and 565 injured were civilians, Mr Ahmed said, giving the first casualty figures from this latest bout of violence – the worst in the battle-scarred capital for 15 years.

Clan leaders fighting alongside Islamist hardliners called for a second truce in as many weeks, but hundreds more Ethiopian soldiers were reported to be arriving in the city and there was no let-up in clashes that have killed scores of civilians.

Bodies lay strewn in dusty streets, too dangerous to collect amid violence that the International Committee of the Red Cross said was the coastal capital’s worst in more than 15 years.

Ethiopian tanks and helicopter gun ships pounded insurgent strongholds as Islamist rebels and clan militiamen fired back with machineguns, missiles and rocket-propelled grenades.

Fighting broke out on Sunday with a barrage of artillery shells striking residential neighbourhoods around the main soccer stadium — the site of some of the heaviest exchanges since the Ethiopian offensive was launched on Thursday.

The fighting shattered a brief and shaky truce between the Ethiopians and leaders of the city’s dominant clan, the Hawiye.

Security sources said the AU was trying to arrange more talks between the two sides, but faced massive mutual mistrust.

Hundreds of people have been injured and thousands have fled the city.

Hospitals were overwhelmed, even though most of the wounded were unable to seek help and doctors were also trapped at home.

Ethiopia says it has killed more than 200 “armed remnants” of an Islamic sharia courts movement that it helped the government chase out of Mogadishu over the New Year.

On Friday, insurgents shot down an Ethiopian helicopter gunship with a missile.

Several dead Ethiopian soldiers have been dragged through the streets and burnt by mobs.

While Addis Ababa seems determined to finish off the rebels, many experts say the attacks could have the opposite effect, turning Somalis further against their Christian-led neighbour, or drawing in foreign Muslim jihadists.

Despite the fighting, Somalia’s interim government remains confident a re-conciliation meeting of elders, politicians and former warlords planned for April 16 will go ahead in the city.

The administration is the 14th attempt to restore central rule in Somalia since 1991, when the Horn of Africa nation slid into anarchy after Dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown.

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