178 killed in Somalia clashes
Al-Shabab fighters (file photo)
At least 178 people, including 57 civilians, have been killed and several others injured in clashes between government forces and al-Shabab fighters in Somalia.
Heavy fighting erupted in the outskirts of Dhobley on Sunday and security forces could eventually take control of the town, killing at least 44 al-Shabab fighters, a Press TV correspondent reported.
The government says Al-Shabaab fighters targeted houses in Dhoobley, causing hundreds of families to flee their homes.
At least 178 people are reported to have died in the fighting from both sides. Al-Shabab has confirmed that it has lost the towns of Dhoobley and Liboi to government forces.
Heavy machine guns, mortars and anti-aircraft guns were used in the exchange of fire that wounded at least 140 people, including civilians
Fighting has turned more violent since Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed announced a new offensive on February 23 and said that 17,000 African Union and Somali soldiers will continue to fight until al-Shabab's hold on the capital, Mogadishu, and other cities is shattered.
Dozens of government soldiers, opposition fighters and civilian have since been killed on a daily basis, reducing the possibility of reaching a peaceful solution to the crisis.
Somalia has been without an effective central government since former dictator Siad Barre was overthrown by warlords in 1991.
Somali government controls only a small part of Mogadishu. Lack of coordination among its forces, who are barely trained and seldom get paid, has for long barred the government's promise of a full-scale war against opposition fighters.
Fighting, famine and disease have led to the death of nearly one million people in the African country and crushed all government efforts at restoring security.
There are more than 1.4 million internally displaced persons in Somalia. More than 300,000 of them are sheltered in Mogadishu alone.