The speaker of Somalia's parliament Saturday asked neighboring countries to deploy troops within 24 hours to help the embattled government fight rising attacks by hard line Islamist rebels following the killing of high-profile Somali officials Friday.
"The government is weakened by the rebel forces. We ask neighboring countries -- including Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Yemen -- to send troops to Somalia within 24 hours," Sheikh Aden Mohamed Nur told reporters.
Thousands of residents fled the Somali capital many on foot and carrying children on their backs, after a new round of fierce violence broke out Saturday between government troops and Islamist rebels.
Residents reported sporadic gunfire on Saturday morning in Karan, prompting a mass exodus. The exodus was the heaviest since the UN-backed shaky government of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed took office five months ago.
"This is the worst moment of our lives. I don't need to describe the conditions in Karan, just look at me," said Mohamed Ali Osman, 23, who had his 18-month daughter strapped on his back and was carrying a heavy sack of corn flour on his head as he walked out of the city.
"My wife and three other children fled yesterday, but I was trapped indoors with my daughter here," he said as Somali Islamist insurgents patrolled a street in the Tarbunka area of Mogadishu.
Many of the displaced are fleeing to Afgooye corridor, about 12 miles south of the capital and where many sleep in the open by the roadside. Aid agencies say at least 400,000 displaced are living rough there.
Thousands of residents fled the Somali capital many on foot and carrying children on their backs, after days of fierce fighting between government troops and Islamist rebels.
Somali officials killed
The recent round of violent attacks claimed the lives three Somali senior officials. On Friday hard line Islamist insurgents stepped up an offensive against Somalia's government, killing Mohamed Hussein Addow, a Somali legislator during fighting in the Kaaran area, north Mogadishu.
"Mohamed Hussien Addow was killed in his house after opposition militia attacked Kaaran district," local district commissioner Muhudin Hassan Jurus told Reuters.
The day before that Islamists also killed the Horn of Africa country's security minister, described as a faithful ally to Somali President Ahmed Sharif, and Mogadishu's top police commander in addition to some 30 other people in a suicide car bomb attack.
Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke told the news conference the suicide attacks would not deter the government from pursuing peace.
"We call on the international community to stand with us and assist our security forces and AMISOM to really defeat these enemies before they pose a threat to the entire region," Sharmarke said.
Around 320 people, many of them civilians, have been killed after Islamist rebels stepped up a violence campaign five months ago against the U.N.-backed fragile government of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
The death of the security minister and Mogadishu's police chief this week were seen as significant setbacks given the two men were closely involved in directing the government's forces.
Al-Shabaab insurgents, said to have hundreds of foreign fighters in their ranks, claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack.
The rebels who want to oust the government control much of southern Somalia and some of the capital.
Expressing concern over unrest in the horn of Africa, Kenya's foreign minister Moses Wetangula said his country will not allow the situation in neighboring country to deteriorate further because it posed a threat to regional stability, prompting a threat from the Islamist al-Shabaab to destroy Nairobi.
"We will not sit by and watch the situation in Somalia deteriorate beyond where it is. We have a duty...as a government to protect our strategic interests including our security," Wetangula said Friday.
Kenya, the United States and European countries fear that if the chaos continues in Somalia, groups with links to al-Qaeda will become entrenched and threaten the stability of neighboring countries.
"Kenya will do exactly that to ensure the unfolding developments in Somalia do not in any way undermine or affect our peace and security as a country," he told a news conference.
But an al-Shabaab spokesman warned Kenya against any intervention.
"Kenya had been saying that it will attack the mujahideen of al Shabaab for the last four months. If it tries to, we will attack Kenya and destroy the tall buildings of Nairobi," Sheik Hasan Yacqub told reporters in the southern port city of Kismayu.
Asked about any specific action, Wetangula said an international partnership was dealing with the issue of the insurgency and instability in Somalia and it would be inappropriate to discuss details.
John Holmes, the top U.N. humanitarian aid official, said on Friday instability was making it very tough to deliver food and supplies to Somalis who are also struggling to cope with drought.
Wetangula's comments echoed a joint statement issued on Thursday by the European Union, the African Union, the Inter-Governmental Agency on Development, the League of Arab States and the United Nations.
"These extremists, both Somali and foreigners, are continuing their indiscriminate violence. They are a threat not only to the country, but to the IGAD region and the international community," the bodies said.
Al-Shabaab has so far resisted government attempts to drive its fighters from the capital.
Analysts say the fighting in Mogadishu since May 7, in which about 300 people have been killed, is the worst for years and the chances of a negotiated peace are waning.
Wetangula, who met several ambassadors in Nairobi on Friday, urged countries who had pledged $213 million in April to build security forces to deliver on those pledges as soon as possible.
He said the African Union was committed to beefing up its 4,300-strong peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and helping to build a police force.