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Somali families flee to capital, fearing fighting

Feisal Omar / Reuters

Families flee from al-Shabab held towns to Mogadishu, Somalia, on Feb. 16, 2012, following al-Qaeda's declaration last week that the Somali militant group was joining its ranks.

The Associated Press reports from MOGADISHU, Somalia — Thousands of Somalis are fleeing an insurgent-held town into the capital because they fear a military attack by African Union (AU) troops allied to the weak Somali government.

Hundreds of cars and trucks packed with mattresses and other household items created traffic jams in the capital of Mogadishu on Thursday.

The exodus comes a day after Somali and AU troops extended their reach beyond Somali capital to launch an offensive on Elasha Biyaha. The rebel-held settlement is inhabited by Somalis who fled Mogadishu violence in 2007.

Last week it was reported that the Somali militant group al-Shabab, which is fighting the Somali government and AU forces, had formally joined al-Qaida.

Feisal Omar / Reuters

People flee from al-Shabab held towns to Mogadishu on Feb. 16, 2012.