Somalian rebels claimed to have gained control over the capital Mogadishu on a fourth day of fierce battles Tuesday with troops loyal to the government, but there were conflicting reports on the extent of the guerrilla gains.

The rebel Congress for Somali Unity issued a communique in Rome Tuesday saying the USC forces "have completed their control of Mogadishu, " but communication links to the capital were severed and independent confirmation was unavailable.It said there was fierce fighting at the Mogadishu military airport where the rebels earlier reported beleaguered President Mohamed Siad Barre had sought refuge after fleeing the presidential palace.

The communique said national radio and television facilities were in rebel hands.

The Italian news agency ANSA reported fierce clashes early Tuesday for control of the capital of the nation of 8 million at the Horn of Africa, which borders Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti.

The rebels on Monday had reported "hundreds" of casualties in the battle to topple Siad Barre.

Prime Minister Mohamed Hawladeh Madar, ANSA reported, was quoted saying over government radio Tuesday that loyal troops had ousted rebels from key points in the city, including the district where the presidential palace is located.