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May 29, 2009

Fighting for control of Somalia

While Somalia recently has been in the news for its notorious pirates, back on-shore the country continues to struggle through a years-long war that has intensified lately, and to seek some sort of functional unifying government. Back in January, the Transitional Federal Parliament of Somalia elected moderate Islamist Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as President. Ahmed has gained international backing in his efforts to bring an end to 18 years of civil conflict. However, hard-line Islamist groups such as al Shabaab, Hezb al-Islamiya and others continue to reject the government and have been attacking its forces and civilians for years now, most of the fighting taking place in the capital city of Mogadishu. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) provides over 3,000 troops to maintain security where it can. Since the start of this insurgency in December 2006, nearly 17,000 civilians have lost their lives. (32 photos total)

Militiamen run in a street during a firefight against Government troops in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on March 30, 2009. Somalia's new President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist cleric, has signed up to a UN-sponsored national reconciliation process and received international backing. Meanwhile the Shabaab faction, which control much of southern and central Somalia, appear to have little political or popular backing, their ability to destabilise the country remains high and they have reportedly received the support of hundreds of foreign jihadists in recent months. Somalia has had no effective central authority since the 1991 ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre touched off a bloody cycle of clashes between rival factions. (MOHAMED DAHIR/AFP/Getty Images)

A Somali islamist militant loyal to Hezb al-Islamiya is pictured at a frontline position near the Hodan district in Mogadishu on May 23, 2009. The Shabaab and Hezb al-Islamiya fighters are the main insurgent groups trying to topple President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's internationally recognised transitional government. Government forces encountered fierce resistance as they tried unsuccessfully yesterday to drive the Islamist insurgents from the Somalian capital of Mogadishu. (MOHAMED DAHIR/AFP/Getty Images) #

Islamist fighters ride in the back of a cut-out SUV in Mogadishu during fierce clashes May 22, 2009. Battles left at least six people dead as Somali government forces attempted to drive Islamist rebels out of the capital, officials and witnesses said. Troops attacked the rebels in three positions in southern Mogadishu which they wrested from the government during recent heavy clashes. (ABDIRASHID ABDULLE/AFP/Getty Images) #

A young girl is rushed to a waiting ambulance and later died after arriving at Medina Hospital in Mogadishu, Somalia, on May 10, 2009. A mortar shell landed in the girl's house in the Wardiglay neighborhood killing 6 people on the spot and wounding three others. (MOHAMED DAHIR/AFP/Getty Images) #

Nasro Barow (right) tends to her wounded brother Muse, a Somali government soldier, as he lies in a cot in a medical tent set up by Ugandan soldiers at one of their bases in Mogadishu, Somalia on May 24, 2009. Muse was injured while fighting Al-Shabaab militias during a fight in the streets of the Somali capital. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

Children run past the dead body of a man in Mogadishu, Sunday, May 10, 2009. Rival Islamist groups clashed in Somalia's capital Sunday, killing at least 10 people and wounding dozens in renewed fighting in the seaside city, witnesses and hospital officials said. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh) #

Armed men ride the back of a pick-up truck near the roundabout called "km 4" and renowed for being a particularly violent place in downtown Mogadishu on May 26, 2009. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

Two boys look at the bodies of two government soldiers killed during clashes between Islamic fighters and government soldiers, in Mogadishu, Somalia, Friday, May 22, 2009. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh) #

Ugandan soldiers serving in Somalia under the African Union mission in Somalia load their machine guns at a firing range on one of their bases in Mogadishu on May 27, 2009. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

Somalia's President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed speaks during a press conference at the Presidential palace in Mogadishu on May 27, 2009. Ahmed on Wednesday accused Eritrea of arming hardline Islamists fighting to oust his government, a day after his own palace came under a barrage of mortar shells. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

Teenage hard-line Islamist fighters man a checkpoint at a road near the presidential palace in Mogadishu, on May 14, 2009. Insurgents have been redeploying many forces from across the country to launch an unprecedented offensive, while Ugandan and Burundian African Union peacekeepers held the fort for Sharif's beleaguered administration. Government forces-backed AU peacekeepers controlled only the presidential compound, a handful of other government institutions in adjacent buildings, the airport and the seaport, witnesses and an AFP correspondent said. (MUSTAFA ABDI/AFP/Getty Images) #

Islamist militants from the Hizb-al-Islamiya take positions at Wardhiglay Police station in Mogadishu on May 10, 2009. (MOHAMED DAHIR/AFP/Getty Images) #

An Islamist fighter opposed to the Somali government mans a position near the presidential palace in Mogadishu on May 17, 2009. (MOHAMED DAHIR/AFP/Getty Images) #

A Ugandan Army soldier serving in Somalia under a contingent of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) rides atop an armored vehicle near the port of Mogadishu on May 26, 2009. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

A Somali insurgent loyal to Hezb al-Islamiya communicates on his cellular telephone while manning a frontline position next to the Bakara market in Mogadishu on May 23, 2009. (MOHAMED DAHIR/AFP/Getty Images) #

A Somali policeman holds his weapon as he sits inside his vehicle while he and others provide security at the port in Mogadishu on May 26, 2009. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

Released by the US Navy on May 25, 2009, this photo shows Somali migrants who were fleeing their country in a disabled skiff as they wait for assistance from Sailors aboard the cruiser USS Lake Champlain. The skiff, originally ferrying 52 passengers, was spotted in distress by helicopter pilots assigned to the "Wolfpack" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 45 while patrolling the area. (MC2 DANIEL BARKER/AFP/Getty Images) #

Cargo ships sit anchored off the shore of Mogadishu as they wait their turn to come into port to be unloaded, on May 27, 2009. Although Mogadishu has been ravaged by constant fighting between warring factions vying for power, business in the country has never really stopped. Dozens of ships come weekly to the port to deliver imported goods and much needed humanitarian aid. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

A Somali dock worker leans against sacks of food aid loaded on to a truck as they recently arrived by ship at Mogadishu's port on May 26, 2009. The UN says that Somalia has become a massive humanitarian crisis with over three million people in "acute need" of aid. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

Residents bury the body of an Islamist loyal to the government killed during clashes with hardline Islamist fighters in southern Mogadishu May 11, 2009. (REUTERS/Feisal Omar (SOMALIA CONFLICT POLITICS) #

Hardline Islamist militants from Hezb al-Islamiya patrol a deserted road in southern Mogadishu May 25, 2009. (REUTERS/Feisal Omar (SOMALIA CONFLICT POLITICS IMAGES OF THE DAY) #

A fighter belonging to the Al-Shabaab militia runs with his weapon during clashes with Somali government troops in the streets of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu on May 22, 2009. (MOHAMED DAHIR/AFP/Getty Images) #

A Somali insurgent mans a position next to a road at Tribune area in Hodan district on May 23, 2009. (ABDIRASHID ABDULLE/AFP/Getty Images) #

Al-Shabaab militiamen fire on Somali government troops in the streets of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu on May 22, 2009. (MOHAMED DAHIR/AFP/Getty Images) #

A Ugandan soldier serving in somalia under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) provides security during his convoy's stop at the port of Mogadishu on May 26, 2009. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

Somali women sit on the ground as they patiently wait for medical attention under the sun outside a military base used by Ugandan peacekeepers on May 25, 2009. Hundreds of Somali men and women come to an outpatient clinic inside the base three times a week to receive free medical care. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

A boy and a girl stand next to a makeshift tent at a camp for Internally Displaced People, on the outskirts of Mogadishu on May 21, 2009. The lives of more than 50,000 severely malnourished children are at risk after Islamist militants looted medical and relief stocks in a town in central Somalia, UNICEF said this week. (MOHAMED DAHIR/AFP/Getty Images) #

A Somali man too sick to walk lies on a wooden cart as he waits to be screened by security personnel at the entrance of a military base used by Ugandan peacekeepers on May 25, 2009. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

A Somali woman tends to her seven year-old son who was wounded by a stray bullet on May 24, 2009 as they sit inside a medical tent that was set up by Ugandan soldiers at one of their bases in Mogadishu, Somalia. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #

Somali Islamists loyal to the transitional federal government walk past bullet-riddled buildings during a patrol in northern Mogadishu, May 26, 2009. (REUTERS/Ismail Taxta (SOMALIA CONFLICT SOCIETY) #

Local journalists take pictures at the scene of the killing of a Somali government soldier near Mogadishu stadium, on May 11, 2009. Remains of dead soldiers littered an area around the stadium following heavy exchanges with Al-Shabaab militia the day before. (MOHAMED DAHIR/AFP/Getty Images) #

A Ugandan soldier serving in somalia under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) rides atop an armored vehicle during a convoy in the streets of downtown Mogadishu on May 26, 2009. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images) #