25 October 2010
Last updated at 08:12
The African Union has called for its force fighting Islamist insurgents in Somalia to be increased from 8,000 to 20,000. Its mission in Somalia, Amisom, has released these images to the BBC documenting life in the shattered capital, Mogadishu.
The AU is backing government troops who are battling to wrest control of the city from Islamist groups. This captured al-Shabab fighter said that out of a combat unit of 14 ordered to attack this central AU position, 11 deserted and two were killed.
Years of fighting have displaced hundreds of thousands of Somalis inside their own country as well as badly damaging the provision of basic social services and children's ability to attend school on a regular basis in many areas of Mogadishu.
Outside the Amisom clinic, where thousands seek free medical help every week, a young girl stands with her family. The clinic treats injuries and other ailments. Hospitals in the city have been overwhelmed by hundreds of people injured in recent fighting.
As the sun sets after another day of fierce fighting, smoke rises from a shell explosion in front of the old parliament. Despite an al-Shabab offensive launched at the end of the Muslim month of Ramadan, the AU says the group has been losing territory.
Somali government soldiers man a recently taken position on the frontline in the Tarbunka district of Mogadishu as their forces, with co-operation from Amisom, try to consolidate their recent gains.
On the rooftop of a newly occupied position, peacekeepers from Burundi keep watch over the surrounding area for signs of insurgent activity. Despite pledges from other African nations, only Uganda and Burundi have contributed personnel to the AU mission.
A view out over the frontline in Tarbunka district shows the destruction caused by years of fighting. Long bereft of civilians, Amisom moves from house to house to clear the area of insurgents and secure more of the area.
“We are learning as we go; learning and using new initiatives that help us in this fight,” one Ugandan commander overseeing frontline operations said. If Amisom received its requested troop numbers, commanders believe the city would quickly fall.
In the meantime, life continues for the civilians who have chosen not to flee despite the risk of injury or death. Years of war have destroyed much of the coastal city that is now also seen as a growing threat to the security of the wider region.