Some of the last foreigners remaining in Somalia's war-ravaged capital were evacuated Tuesday amid heavy fighting between rebels and government troops, an official said.
The 47 people taken by helicopter to the French frigate Jules Verne were among the estimated 100 foreigners left in Mogadishu. Those rescued included 27 Italians and some children, a military spokesperson in Paris said.Plans for an Italian plane to attempt a rescue mission were canceled because of fighting.
Rebels on Monday said they were close to overthrowing President Mohamed Siad Barre, who has ruled the Horn of Africa nation for 21 years.
They estimated more than 1,500 people have been killed and several thousand wounded in the fighting since it began Dec. 30.
Airlifts from Mogadishu since the weekend have carried out hundreds of foreigners, including all U.S. diplomats and citizens, the State Department said. It said Somali soldiers had sacked the vacant $35 million U.S. Embassy compound, the largest American mission in sub-Saharan Africa.
Siad Barre has not been seen publicly since the clan-based uprising began in the nation of 8 million people. The Italian Foreign Ministry said it believed he was still in Mogadishu.