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Last Updated: Friday, 30 March 2007, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
Helicopter shot down in Somalia
Ethiopian army helicopters at Mogadishu's airport
Helicopter gunships have been used in a security crackdown
A helicopter has been shot down in the Somali capital, as Ethiopian and Somali government troops battle to clear insurgents from Mogadishu.

"The helicopter looked like a ball of smoke and fire before crashing," Ruqiya Shafi Muhyadin told AP news agency as it crashed in an area near the airport.

Correspondents say the Ethiopian helicopter was hit by a missile.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says the fighting is the heaviest in the city for 15 years.

Dozens of people have died since heavy fighting began on Thursday, ending a six-day truce.

The ICRC said some 229 people, mostly women and children, had been taken to hospital in the past 24 hours.

Overwhelmed

A spokesman for the Ugandan African Union (AU) force confirmed the gunship had crashed near their base at Mogadishu's international airport.

Smoke rising on the horizon in Mogadishu
We barely slept last night. The sky was lit up by shelling all night
Faisal Jamah
Mogadishu resident

"Our troops managed to secure the wreckage as well as taking away the bodies. Only two bodies were recovered," Capt Paddy Ankunda told AFP news agency.

Fighting resumed on Friday as pro-government forces battled insurgents at close quarters near Mogadishu's main football stadium in the south of the city.

"We barely slept last night. The sky was lit up by shelling all night," Faisal Jamah told Reuters news agency.

"There are a lot of wounded, but there is no way to take them to the hospitals due to the fighting on the roads."

The BBC's Mohamed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu says hospitals in the city are overwhelmed with the wounded from Thursday's battles and dead bodies were scattered in the streets.

An ICRC spokesman said staff at Medina and Keysaney hospitals were working hard to treat the number of casualties

"Just to give a figure, since 1 January these two hospitals received 1,000 weapon-wounded which is extremely high," Pedram Yazdi told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

'Terrorists'

Interim Prime Minister Mohammed Ali Ghedi insists the operation will continue in order to restore stability to the city, which has been wracked by conflict since the overthrow of Siad Barre in 1991.

Injured man being taken to hospital
Many civilians had been injured and wounded in recent weeks

"There are some insurgents in the city who have links with international terrorists and are fighting against the government and the people of Somalia," Mr Ghedi told the BBC Network Africa from the Arab League summit.

He said plans for the national reconciliation conference in April were under way and they have invited moderate Islamic scholars for the conference.

On Thursday, crowds of people dragged bodies in uniform through the streets.

Ethiopia says two-thirds of its troops, which helped oust the Islamists who ruled much of southern Somalia for six months, have left.

Some 1,700 Ugandan troops are in Mogadishu as the advance party of an 8,000-strong AU force.


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