Heavy fighting raged Friday in the Somali capital, and Italy said it would close its embassy after it came under fire in battles between loyalist troops and rebels trying to topple the government.
The fighting forced two Italian planes - sent to try to rescue more foreigners from the embattled capital, Mogadishu - to return empty Friday to the Kenyan port city of Mombasa.It remained unclear who controlled what in Mogadishu. The reb-els repeatedly have claimed they hold all but the airport where they say Somalia's president, Siad Barre, is holed up in a heavily guarded bunker.
There was a report that one foreigner, believed to be Korean, was killed in the Italian Embassy during the fighting Thursday night. The Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome said "apparently the casualty did occur with the embassy compound" but it had "no definitive confirmation."
Italy is a former colonial power in Somalia and has maintained strong ties with the Horn of Africa country of 8 million people.
Siad Barre has not been seen publicly since the fighting erupted Dec. 30.