Source AP ©

50 Somalis killed, 100 hurt in violent fighting

50 people killed and 100 others wounded in heavy fighting between rebels and Ethiopian troops backing Somalia's shaky government.

Ethiopian troops based at the former defense ministry in the south of the capital killed eight civilians early Friday when they fired tank shells into the main Bakara market, Khalif Haji Muse told The Associated Press, adding that two others died when Ethiopian snipers fired at them. Other witnesses said six others died when shells crashed into their homes.

The bodies of 34 people, among them four women and six Ethiopians, were found in the northern and southern parts of Mogadishu, where fighting was intense a day earlier, witnesses said.

Mogadishu has seen little peace since December, when Ethiopian troops backing Somalia's U.N.-backed government ousted an Islamic group called the council of Islamic Courts. This year alone, thousands of Somalis have been killed in fighting between Ethiopian troops and Islamic insurgents who vowed to launch an Iraq-style guerrilla war after they were chased from the capital and much of southern Somalia.

Presidential spokesman Hussein Mohamed Mohamud said insurgents would be treated harshly.

The insurgents' aim, Mohamud said, "is to depict the fighting as a war between Ethiopians and Somali people. Far from it."

"The fighting is between government troops and their Ethiopian friends on one hand, and the peace-haters on the other hand and anyone who hurts Ethiopian or Somali troops will be treated as a traitor," he said.

The fighting Thursday afternoon began when Ethiopian troops tried to retrieve the body of one of their soldiers who had been killed in earlier skirmishes in the south of the city. Hundreds of protesters - mainly women and children - chanting anti-Ethiopian slogans dragged the body, which had been left behind by fleeing soldiers, through the city for about eight kilometers (5 miles), witnesses said.

Ethiopian troops based at the former prisons guard building in the south fired several tank shells into the north of the city, hitting the livestock market, which is seen as a hotbed of supporters of Islamic insurgents battling the Somali government and their Ethiopian allies, said local resident Abdiaziz Mohamed Guled.

The dragged soldier was one of two Ethiopian soldiers and a Somali killed earlier Thursday in a heavy fighting that started when hundreds of Ethiopian soldiers from two nearby military bases began patrols in the north eastern Hurwa neighborhood.

Doctors at Medina, Keysaney and Daynile hospitals said they have treated 100 civilians with gunshot wounds since Thursday.

Sporadic gunfire could be heard in the north and south of the capital on Friday and Somali government troops were patrolling some of the streets, residents said. But no substantial fighting was reported Friday morning.

On Wednesday, the humanitarian agency Doctors Without Borders said the fighting had grown so bad that civilians who were shot or hit by shrapnel during the night frequently bled to death because the violence cut them off from the hospitals.

The impoverished Horn of Africa nation has not had a functioning government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a dictator and then turned on each other.

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