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The intense fighting in Mogadishu, the capital, between the Islamist armed group al-Shabaab and the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and African Union peacekeepers over the past eight months has killed and wounded thousands of civilians and forced all but the poorest residents to flee the capital.
"The world has for too long ignored the appalling cost to civilians of the fighting in Mogadishu," said Rona Peligal, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "An international commission of inquiry is urgently needed to investigate war crimes committed in Somalia by all sides."
Al-Shabaab forces have also been responsible for targeted killings of people allegedly linked to the transitional government, the forced recruitment of children, and abuses against civilians under their control.
Mogadishu has been wracked by conflict since late 2006, when an Ethiopian military intervention ousted a coalition of Islamic courts from power. Although Ethiopian forces withdrew from the city by January 2009, insurgents continue to fight the transitional government and its supporters.
In May 2010 the armed opposition - including al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam insurgents - began a new offensive to topple the TFG, which is recognized internationally. The transitional government controls only a few areas of Mogadishu. It is backed by more than 8,000 peacekeeping troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa militias, a moderate Somali Islamic group erratically allied to the transitional government.
The offensive heightened over the Islamic month of Ramadan in August and September, when al-Shabaab called for a "final offensive" to oust the transitional government, shortly after al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the July 11 bombings in Kampala, Uganda. Al-Shabaab claimed the bombings, which killed 76 people and wounded 70 others, were in response to Uganda
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