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Somali government forces and African Union troops battled insurgents in the capital, Mogadishu, in a bid to secure aid routes for drought victims.
At least 27 civilians were injured in the fighting, medics said.
The clashes come just a day after the UN World Food Programme (WFP) began airlifting emergency supplies into the war-torn capital for thousands of children at risk of starvation from an extreme drought in the Horn of Africa.
African Union and Somali forces traded barrages of fire at a new front line in Mogadishu on Friday, as AU forces gained new territory. The country's president appealed for more international aid, saying the government can't feed all the overwhelming number of Somalis suffering from famine.
The African Union military force fears that al-Shabab militants may try to attack the camps that now house tens of thousands of famine refugees in the Somali capital, disrupting the distribution of food aid. A new offensive to push the militant front line farther back from the camps began Thursday
The AU offensive that began Thursday has seen AU troops move up the east side of Mogadishu's largest market — Bakara. The troops now control three sides of the market — the west, south and east — and AU force spokesman Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda said Friday that the gains mean that tactically speaking the AU essentially controls the market.
Forces are now moving toward the city's large sports stadium, from which al-Shabab fires artillery, Ankunda said.