Al-Shebab offensive leaves scores more civilians dead in Mogadishu
Fresh fighting in the Somali capital Mogadishu left at least 19 civilians dead Thursday according to medics and witnesses, as Somalia's Al-Shebab militant group launched its latest offensive.
The insurgents attacked positions held by government forces and troops from the African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in several districts of the capital.
"We have counted 19 civilians killed in the clashes so far. At least 86 others were also wounded," said Ali Muse, the head of Mogadishu's ambulance service.
Muse said that most of the civilians were killed in the Bakara market area, a Shebab stronghold, when government and AMISOM forces fired retaliatory mortar rounds.
"It is a disaster, the shelling is indiscriminate, they are killing innocent civilians in a densely populated market place," he said.
Abdirahman Adan, a witness in Bakara, said he had “never seen such bloodshed” when at least nine of the victims were killed by the same hit. “I saw so many dead bodies, some of them torn to pieces” he said.
AMISOM spokesman Ba-Hoku Baridgye said his forces killed some 25 Islamist insurgents, whilst losing one of their own soldiers.
On 23 August, the Shebab, who control most of southern and central Somalia, announced a major offensive "to eliminate the invading Christians and their apostate government".
All sides have been accused of the indiscriminate force in civilian-populated areas.
The government has played down accusations that civilians have borne the brunt of recent fighting in the region, arguing that insurgents are sometimes included in civilian casualty tolls.
"By the time they reach the hospitals, the bodies have been stripped of weapons, ammunition and other paraphernalia, and they look like ordinary civilians," the Somali ministry of information said in a recent statement.
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