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Bomb kills 7 as Somali capital hit by violence

A SUICIDE car bomber killed six policemen and a civilian yesterday in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, where Islamist insurgents are fighting pro-government forces.

Abdifatah Shaweye, deputy governor of Mogadishu, said the bomber drove a pickup truck to the gate of a police headquarters and detonated it in front of the guards.

"Four died on the spot, two others died of serious injuries, and one civilian (died)," a police commander, who asked not to be named, told reporters.

An upsurge in violence this month has killed nearly 200 people in Mogadishu and forced some 60,000 residents from their homes.

At least 53 people have died since Friday morning, when the government attacked rebel strongholds in the city.

Neighboring states and Western governments fear Somalia, which has been mired in civil war for 18 years, could become a haven for militants linked to al-Qaida unless the new government under President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed can defeat them.

Islamist insurgent group al-Shabaab has been spearheading the rebel offensive with allied guerrilla group Hizbul Islam.

They stepped up attacks in the capital earlier this month.

The United Nations says hundreds of foreign fighters have joined the rebel ranks.

Security sources say the insurgents have been planting more sophisticated roadside bombs in recent months and suicide attacks have become more frequent.

Two suicide bombers - one wearing an explosive vest and another in a car - infiltrated a compound housing peacekeeping troops from Burundi in February and killed 11 soldiers in the worst single attack on the African Union force.

Yesterday morning, more Mogadishu residents took advantage of a lull in the fighting to grab some belongings and flee to sprawling refugee camps outside the crumbling city.

"I call on the international community and the aid agencies to react very urgently to the worsening humanitarian situation in Somalia," Mohamud Abdi Ibrahim, minister for Humanitarian Affairs, told reporters yesterday.

Since the start of 2007, fighting between Islamist insurgents and pro-government forces has killed at least 17,700 civilians and driven more than a million from their homes. About 3 million Somalis survive on emergency food aid.


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