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AU Calls For Sanctions Against Eritrea Over Somalia Fighting

The African Union is calling on the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on Eritrea because of its alleged support of Islamist insurgents in Somalia.

The pan-African body said Eritrea's ports and airports should be blocked and that a no-fly zone should be imposed over Somalia.

An east African regional group, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, has already called for sanctions against Eritrea, which is accused of arming and financing the insurgents. Eritrea's government denies the charges, saying it is the victim of an international conspiracy.

The new sanctions request came on Friday as more than 40 people were killed during fighting in Somalia's capital Mogadishu.

Government troops have been using heavy artillery to shell positions recently gained by the insurgents.

A journalist from the local station Radio Shabelle, as well as several civilians, were among those killed in Friday's fighting.

Fighting has killed more than 100 people and displaced an estimated 45,000 Mogadishu residents since hardline Islamic 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 on the ground, but its mandate does not allow it to pursue the insurgents.

A U.S. State Department official has said Eritrea's government is, in his words, "fanning the flames" in Somalia, while the Security Council has expressed concern over the reports of Eritrea's alleged involvement.

The Associated Press reports that on Friday Eritrea sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council, rejecting the accusations.

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