Report: 113 Slain Over 3 Days in Somalia

The Associated Press
Friday, April 20, 2007; 2:47 PM

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- Three days of fighting between Islamic insurgents and Ethiopian troops backing the government has killed at least 113 civilians, a local human rights group said on Friday. The U.N. said hundreds of thousands of residents had fled.

Sporadic fighting between Wednesday and Friday had wounded 229 people, said Sudan Ali Ahmed, chairman of the decade-old Elman Human Rights Organization. He said his organization collected the figures from hospitals, local residents and its agents recording burials in the Mogadishu.

"We condemn both sides of the conflict and call on them to immediately stop the mass massacre in the capital," Ahmed told The Associated Press.

On Friday, the U.N. refugee agency revised its estimates of people who fled Mogadishu to 321,000 _ more than one-tenth the total population of about 2 million.

Mogadishu's streets have seen continuous fighting on Friday between Ethiopian troops backing the government and insurgents, and civilians are frequently caught in the crossfire. Four days of bloodshed last month killed more than 1,000 civilians and wounded 4,300 in the country's worst violence in more than 15 years.

Osman Abdi Wehliye, watching from his window on Friday, said he saw Ethiopian troops shooting toward insurgent strongholds. Wehliye said that the Ethiopians used tanks, mortars and machine guns.

Abdillahi Hassan Ali, whose home is on the insurgents' side of the front line, said masked men were firing rocket launchers and Kalashnikov assault rifles at the Ethiopians. The masked men also had some pickups mounted with machine-guns. Whenever the Ethiopians fired back, the insurgents would hide behind houses, Ali said.

The radical Somali Islamic movement was linked to al-Qaida by U.S. and other counterterrorism experts. The U.S. State Department believes al-Qaida operatives in Somalia are at least partially responsible for the growing violence in Mogadishu. Diplomats have said, though, that also involved in the violence are clan militias vying for power that are not necessarily linked to the Islamic insurgents.

Somalia's transitional government was formed in 2004 with U.N. help but has struggled to extend control over the country.

© 2007 The Associated Press