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At Least 40 Killed in Mogadishu Fighting

A government soldier runs for cover during heavy clashes in northern Mogadishu, 11 Mar 2010, in a second day of intense fighting between Somali government troops and insurgent forces

Witnesses say clashes began in north Mogadishu and escalated when AU tanks reinforced government troops

A Somali medical official says at least 40 people have been killed over two days of intense fighting between pro-government forces and Islamist insurgents.

Witnesses say the clashes began in north Mogadishu Wednesday afternoon and escalated when African Union peacekeepers in tanks reinforced government troops. Residents reported heavy shelling overnight into Thursday.

Ali Muse, the head of Mogadishu's ambulance service, says about 20 civilians were killed Wednesday and an additional 20 have already been killed Thursday.

He says at least 83 civilians have been wounded in the fighting.

The Somali transitional government has promised for weeks to launch an offensive against insurgent groups, but has yet to do so. Thousands of residents have fled Mogadishu in anticipation of the fighting.

The main insurgent group al-Shabab controls large parts of the capital and southern Somalia.

The U.N.-backed government controls the airport, seaport, and presidential palace with the help of the AU peacekeepers.

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