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At Least 7 Killed in  Central Somalia Fighting

Clashes in central Somalia between pro-government fighters and insurgents have left at least seven people dead.

Elders and other residents in the central town of Mahas say pro-government militia fighters attacked militants with the radical al-Shabab group based in the town late Tuesday. Witnesses say the fighting had stopped by early Wednesday.

The clashes come after days of renewed fighting in the capital, Mogadishu. The Somalia-based Elman Human Rights Organization said Tuesday the fighting in Mogadishu has killed at least 113 people and wounded more than 300 others over the past five days.

The group says at least 27,000 residents have fled the Somali capital to escape clashes between pro- and anti-government forces. It says it based its figures on unofficial counts by staff members.

Health officials say fierce battles Monday night and early Tuesday killed at least 14 people.

At a news conference Tuesday, the insurgent group al-Shabab acknowledged that foreigners are fighting alongside its forces. Sheikh Hussein Ali Fidow, the group's head of political affairs, described the foreigners as "Muslim brothers."

Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed had asserted that foreigners were assisting the insurgents. The United States, which considers al-Shabab a terrorist organization, believes the group has ties to al-Qaida.

Islamist insurgents have been trying to topple the Somali government for nearly two-and-a-half years. Mr. Sharif was once a leader of the insurgency himself, until a peace deal led to his installation as president in January.

Al-Shabab and its allies control most of southern Somalia, while the government's authority does not extend beyond small parts of the capital.

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