"Fighting started when the government soldiers attempted to loot a store, but insurgents moved in to stop them," Nur Moalim Hassan, a Mogadishu resident, said.

On Wednesday, eight people were killed in fighting between Ethiopian forces and fighters in the north of the capital.

Transitional government

Ethiopian troops helped the transitional government defeat the Islamic Courts Union, which controlled Mogadishu and much of the south of the country, in 2006.

"I believe Somalia remains a prisoner of the past, never forgiven for the violent actions carried out against the international community in the 1990s"

Ahmedou Ould Abdallah,
UN special envoy
Since then remnants of the movement have launched almost daily attacks against the government and military targets. 

Ould Abdallah told the Security Council that recent encouraging political developments by the government - including a reconciliation effort involving local peacemaking and talks with the opposition - must be matched by security improvements.

"I believe Somalia remains a prisoner of the past, never forgiven for the violent actions carried out against the international community in the 1990s," he said.

"There is, it seems, either a reluctance to go back there or a deliberate decision to punish all Somalis, many of whom were not even born during the last international intervention."

In a report to the council this week, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, urged the international community to build the foundations for peace by strengthening UN political efforts and considering the possible deployment of a new 8,000-strong multinational force.

'Enhanced UN presence'

Zalmay Khalilzad, US ambassador to the UN, told reporters that it was important for the Security Council to consider "an enhanced UN  presence" that might do more "in terms of peacekeeping and to support the African forces that are there".
But, he said, "we are not close to deploying a peacekeeping force".

About 2,300 peacekeeping troops from Uganda and Burundi are currently tasked with stabilising Somalia as part of an African Union mission to the country.

Francis Butagira, Uganda's ambassador to the UN, urged the Security Council to move quickly to support the AU force, which has asked for $817m to fund the operation.