NAIROBI, KENYA, JAN. 1 -- Somalia's embattled government continued state radio broadcasts today despite rebel claims to have overrun most of the capital and cornered President Mohamed Siad Barre in an underground bunker.

The United Somali Congress, one of the main rebel groups fighting to topple Siad Barre, said the president was holed up in the south of Mogadishu near the airport as fighting raged around him.

Ten United Nations staff members arrived here after flying from Mogadishu and said total confusion reigned as forces loyal to Siad Barre battled with rebels. "We still have people in there and their lives are in real danger," said one of the evacuees, who declined to be named.

Telephone and telex lines to the city were cut, and it was unclear how much of Mogadishu was in the hands of the rebels as Siad Barre fought to retain power after 21 years in office.

The rebel group, in a statement from its Rome office, claimed capture of the state radio offices and studios. The rebels also said the radio transmitters, 10 miles from the city center, had been damaged.

But state-run Radio Mogadishu broadcast a brief news bulletin quoting Prime Minister Mohamed Hawadle Madar as calling on Somalis to keep the peace. The rest of the bulletin was devoted to foreign news.

In a strangely relaxed broadcast half an hour later, the radio assured listeners it was business as usual.

"We wish to remind listeners that . . . we promise to entertain you with good music until we close down as usual," said the radio, monitored by the British Broadcasting Corp. "Our regular programs and bulletins will reach you as usual."

A later bulletin repeated a Monday report quoting Madar as saying the key Wardhigley district of Mogadishu had been cleared of rebels. It did not mention any fighting today.

Italian state radio said Monday evening that hundreds of people had been killed. It described the scene in Mogadishu as "apocalyptic" and the presidential palace as a smoking ruin.