.- The Holy Father expressed his closeness to those in Somalia suffering from attacks by the militant Islamist group Al-Shabaab in the country's capital. Three days of fighting between government forces and the al-Qaeda inspired insurgents have left many dead and injured.
From Castel Gandolfo, the Pope said at the general audience that he is "close to all the families of the victims and all of those who, in Somalia, suffer due to hate and instability."
AFP reported early on Wednesday that "heavy clashes" continue in the capital city of Mogadishu between government forces allied with African peacekeepers and members of the "Al-Qaeda inspired" Islamist Al-Shabaab movement.
Numbers vary on exactly how many casualties there have been, but many news sources agree that at least six members of parliament were among the more than 30 people killed in a Tuesday attack at a Mogadishu hotel. The militants' strike also injured around 140 people.
According to a Wednesday report from the AFP, officials from both sides have claimed to have the "upper hand" in the city.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said at a Tuesday press briefing that Al-Shabaab militants "appear to have been targeting Somali parliamentarians and other members of the Transitional Federal Government – further evidence that they are bent on depriving Somalia of security, peace, and stability."
Crowley added that the timing of the attack, during Ramadan, "highlights al-Shabaab’s complete disregard for human life, Somali culture, and Islamic values."
Pope Benedict XVI hoped that, "with the help of the international community, no efforts are held back to reestablish respect for life and human rights."