Africa

AU Forces Gain Ground Against Somali Militants

African Union troops in defence in Yaaqshid district of Mogadishu, Somalia, Thursday, July 28, 2011. The government and African Union Peacekeeping troops launched attack and seized al-Shabaab bases in Wardhiigley, Yaaqshid and Boondere districts of Mogadishu.

African Union troops in defence in Yaaqshid district of Mogadishu, Somalia, Thursday, July 28, 2011. The government and African Union Peacekeeping troops launched attack and seized al-Shabaab bases in Wardhiigley, Yaaqshid and Boondere districts of Mogadishu.  (AP2011)

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- A spokesman for African Union forces says they've surrounded most of the largest market in Somalia's capital, where militants have been blocking aid to famine-stricken refugees.

Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda said Friday that his forces have successfully moved up the east side of Bakara market and now control three sides of it.

He said forces are also moving up toward Mogadishu's main sports stadium, and hope to capture it in the next several months. It serves as the main base for al-Shabab, which is linked to Al Qaeda.

On Thursday, African Union troops fought house-to-house battles with militants to clear space for aid groups bringing in food supplies after intelligence reports showed insurgents reinforcing for a possible attack on squalid camps of famine refugees.