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Friday, July 29, 2011

African Union forces battle rebels in drought-hit Mogadishu

mali government forces and African Union troops battled insurgents on Thursday in heavy fighting in the capital Mogadishu in efforts to secure aid routes for drought victims.

At least 27 civilians were injured in the fighting, medics said.

The clashes come just a day after the UN World Food Programme began an airlift of emergency relief into the war-torn capital, to bring supplies for thousands at risk of starvation from an extreme drought in the Horn of Africa.

"Our troops have dealt with specific security threats in a short tactical offensive operation," the spokesman for the African Union force in Somalia (AMISOM) Paddy Ankunda said in a statement.

The assault aimed to "ensure that aid agencies can continue to operate and get vital supplies to internally displaced persons," he added.

Three positions in the city had been captured in a "limited and pinpoint offensive" Ankunda said.

Fighting erupted near the city's key Bakara market and Suqbacad areas, with both sides exchanging heavy machinegun and artillery fire.

Witnesses told AFP that the AU troops and tanks crossed a road that has acted as a frontline in their war with the hardline Shebab insurgents, and moved into the Suqbacad area. (more)