Militias allied to the Somali government recaptured a southern port from Islamists on Tuesday, taking the death toll from an upsurge of fighting in recent days to nearly 100, witnesses said. The militias recaptured Guda town, which had been taken by the Islamists' militant al-Shabaab wing on Monday.
Corpses lay on the streets of Mogadishu on Monday after at least 81 people were killed in battles over the weekend between Islamist-led insurgents and Ethiopian troops supporting Somalia's interim government. Northern districts of the coastal capital suffered the worst of the most intense fighting for months.
Somali Islamist insurgents and Ethiopian troops exchanged mortar fire on Sunday in some of the heaviest clashes in months with at least 20 people killed in the last 24 hours, residents and witnesses said. The fighting was fiercest in the Islamist stronghold of northern Mogadishu.
Hospitals in Mogadishu overflowed with the wounded on Sunday and the death toll from mortar strikes on the city's sprawling main market reached at least 17. Scores of civilians at the Bakara Market were hurt on Saturday when troops positioned at the Villa Somalia presidential palace returned fire against Islamist insurgents who attacked it with mortar bombs, witnesses said.
Somalis uprooted by fighting in Mogadishu looted trucks carrying United Nations food aid on Friday, peacekeepers said, highlighting what relief agencies warn is a fast deteriorating humanitarian catastrophe. Somalia now has one million internal refugees, aid workers say, and their numbers are swelled by an exodus of about 20 000 civilians each month.
Somalia's Islamist insurgents vowed on Thursday to launch more hit-and-run attacks against the government, saying their tactics were designed to reduce civilian casualties. Islamist fighters briefly seized the town of Jowhar, north of Mogadishu, on Wednesday, highlighting the interim government's inability to assert its authority.
Battles erupted in Somalia's capital on Wednesday between Islamist rebels and Ethiopian troops backing the government a day after the United Nations said it was still too dangerous to send peacekeepers there. Witnesses in northern Mogadishu said three Ethiopian soldiers and at least one insurgent were killed as both sides traded heavy fire.
Islamist insurgents cut off the heads of three Somali soldiers south of the capital on Thursday and the United Nations special envoy said he would try to set up peace talks between the opposition and government. It was the first case of beheadings since the government and its Ethiopian military allies ousted the Islamists from power in late 2006.
Hundreds of residents of a remote town in southern Somalia staged an anti-American demonstration on Tuesday after the United States launched an air strike against ''a known al-Qaeda terrorist'' there. The town of Dobley was hit by two missiles on Monday in the fourth US strike in 14 months against Somalia.
Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf escaped unharmed on Sunday when suspected Islamist insurgents hit his presidential compound in Mogadishu with mortar bombs for a second day, one of his aides said. Witnesses said the shelling wounded at least five people.
Islamist insurgents briefly seized control of Somalia's biggest military airfield on Friday and looted weapons, witnesses and an Islamist commander said. Muktar Ali Robow, leader of the al-Shabab rebel militia, told a local radio station his forces also captured government troops during the raid on Baledogle, about 100km west of the capital, Mogadishu.
Somali gunmen kidnapped two Libyan diplomats in Mogadishu's busy Bakara market on Saturday, a driver for the two men said. ''Ten men with pistols in their hands surrounded us. They seized the two diplomats and left with the car,'' the driver, who declined to give his name for fear of reprisal, said.