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Residents Flee Somali Capital


Residents fled Somalia's capital on Saturday, following a day of fierce fighting between government forces and Islamist insurgents that killed at least 45 people.

Most of the dead were civilians. At least 180 others were reported wounded.

When the fighting eased Saturday morning, many people began leaving Mogadishu. An estimated 49,000 residents of the capital had already been displaced.

The government offensive Friday was intended to drive hardline Islamists from their strongholds in the capital.

Attention Friday also turned to Eritrea, which is accused of arming and financing the Islamist fighters. The African Union called for United Nations sanctions on the country, a blockade of its ports and airports and a no-fly zone over Somalia.

Eritrea's government rejects the charges and says it is the victim of an international conspiracy.

Both the U.S. State Department and the U.N. Security Council have expressed concern over Eritrea's alleged involvement with Islamist rebels in Somalia.

More than 150 people have been killed since the militants launched an offensive against Somalia's U.N.-backed government earlier this month.

The insurgents control most of southern Somalia after two-and-a-half years of fighting, while the government controls only small pockets of the capital.

The African Union has a peacekeeping force of 4,300 soldiers in Somalia, but its mandate does not allow it to pursue the insurgents.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

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