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Somali Rights Group Says Fierce Fighting in Capital Kills 81


A Somali human rights group says two days of fighting in the capital, Mogadishu, has killed 81 people.

The Elman Human Rights organization says another 119 people were wounded in fighting Saturday and Sunday between Islamist insurgents and Ethiopian troops.

The chairman of the rights group, Sudan Ali Ahmed condemned the use of artillery shells in residential areas of Mogadishu.

There was no independent verification of the death toll, but residents had reported escalating clashes since Saturday. Witnesses say they have seen scores of bodies in the streets of Mogadishu.

Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein expressed regret Sunday for Somalis who are forced to flee the violence, but he said his interim government and its Ethiopian allies have the right to self-defense.

The Somali government has the backing of Ethiopian troops, who in 2006 helped drive a militant Islamist movement from power in southern Somalia.

Fighting between the insurgents and pro-government forces has killed thousands of Somalis during the past 16 months. The conflict has intensified the country's already dire humanitarian crisis.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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