MOGADISHU - African Union and Somali government troops stepped up their assault on al Shabaab militants in the capital's northern outskirts on Wednesday, forcing hundreds of families to flee their makeshift homes and head for the city center.

The AU force, which already controls most of the capital, is trying to advance through the Afgoye corridor, once a rural area northwest of Mogadishu but now home to hundreds of thousands of Somalis uprooted from their homes.

The corridor, believed to house the largest concentration of internally displaced people in the world, stretches some 30 km northwest of Mogadishu to the al Shabaab stronghold of Afgoye.

The AU force began its advance on Tuesday and seized part of Tre Disho village, 13 km from the capital.

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