Somalia's transitional government has launched a crackdown meant to counter insurgents whose frequent attacks against government troops and Ethiopian forces have exacted a deadly toll in recent weeks. Nick Wadhams has the story from Nairobi.
The government announced the crackdown on Thursday after a number of battles between insurgents and government forces in recent days. It is believed that a fire that destroyed a major market in the capital Mogadishu earlier this week was sparked by a battle.
Government officials say Mogadishu will be divided into zones, and troops will fan out to battle the insurgents. Ismael Hurreh Bubah is a Cabinet minister in the transitional government.
"The government definitely has every intention to bring back the full security to Mogadishu, and I am sure the security measures being now taken by the government are actually, you know, bearing fruit and we hope very soon Mogadishu will be back in a stable condition," he said.
Mogadishu experienced relative calm briefly last year, after groups affiliated with the Islamic Courts Union took control of the capital and some surrounding regions.
At the invitation of the embattled transitional government, Ethiopian troops moved in on Christmas eve and ousted the Islamic Courts leadership. But Ethiopian forces have been unable to prevent continuing attacks.
Humanitarian agencies say Somalia is witnessing a major humanitarian crisis because of the instability. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the capital and are suffering from the hardship including malnourishment.
The transitional government's enemies got a boost last month when they met in Eritrea and vowed to oust the government and Ethiopian troops by force if necessary.
Bubah says he believes those groups, which include some leaders from the Islamic Courts Union, are behind some of the recent violence.
"That's what their intention is," he said. "They have declared war on the transitional federal government and the governments of the Horn of Africa. I don't understand how they can achieve that, but I am sure they are intent on bringing havoc on not only Somalia but also the region itself."
On Friday, a Ugandan presidential envoy was in Mogadishu to try and broker a peace deal between the warring sides.
Uganda is the only country so far to have contributed troops to an African Union peacekeeping mission for Somalia, and is also offering to train a police force.