Somali civilians killed in crossfire of fight for Mogadishu

The death toll since the fighting began rose to at least 135 as of early Friday as the bodies of those killed overnight were brought out of the Sii-Sii neighborhood. Thousands of residents have fled, abandoning their homes to the fighters from the Islamic Court Union and the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism.

Fighting in Somalia has been largely along clan lines and economically motivated. But this battle appears to be ideological - over whether Somalia should be governed by Islamic law - fueling what Mogadishu residents described as the worst fighting in more than a decade of lawlessness.

Most of the dead were civilians caught in the crossfire. Fighters began looting some of the homes in between intense fire fights throughout Friday, witnesses said.

More than 280 people have been wounded since Sunday, doctors said.

Clan elders appeared to have abandoned efforts to negotiate a cease-fire, the AP reports.

The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi issued a press release late Friday calling "upon all parties to cease combat immediately."

On Thursday the Islamic force poured dozens of troops into the battle for a strategic road in Somalia's capital. The heavily armed reinforcements arrived in pickup trucks mounted with heavy machine guns.

So far neither side has gained an upper hand in what Mogadishu residents described as the worst fighting in more than a decade of lawlessness, the AP reports.