Somali death toll rising

Mogadishu - The death toll in Somalia's long-running conflict rose in the first seven months of this year, driven up by increased shelling and fighting in the central region, a human rights group said on Thursday.

Somalia has had no effective government for two decades and efforts by regional governments and the United Nations to install one have been hampered by an insurgency led by an al-Qaeda-inspired group, al-Shabaab.

"At least 918 civilians died and 2 555 others were injured in violence since January," Ali Yasin Gedi, the deputy chair of Elman rights group told Reuters.

"The death toll of the first seven months of 2010 is higher than that of the same period of 2009. Most of the casualties were caused by shelling by the warring groups in Mogadishu."

At least 745 people died and 3 435 others were injured in the same period last year.

Direct fighting between moderate Islamists of Ahlu Sunna and al-Shabaab, combined with inter-clan clashes in central Somalia, also contributed to the higher number of deaths this year, Gedi added.

African Union leaders agreed to add 4 000 extra troops to their peacekeeping force in Somalia, after al-Shabaab carried out bomb attacks in the Ugandan capital, heightening concerns about their ability to carry out attacks in the region and elsewhere.

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