At least one person has died and property worth millions of dollars destroyed after fire engulfed the main market in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.
Several looters were injured during an explosion at one of the shops in Bakara market believed to be selling arms.
Bakara market has been the hub of commercial activities in Somalia since the fall of Siad Barre 16 years ago.
But government forces say the market is a hideout for insurgents responsible for attacks against its troops.
Mogadishu has seen a rise in violence since Ethiopian-backed government troops ousted Islamists last December.
Ruin for many
Market trader Mohamed Ali Ahmed told AP news agency he was now ruined. "My shop was burnt to ashes, nothing is left," he said.
"I used to give help to people but now I am afraid I will be a freeloader myself."
Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Ghedi expressed his regret when he appeared on a local radio station.
Traders at the market say they suspect the fire was started by a clash between insurgents and government forces around the former defence ministry building.
Several people were reported to have died in that clash.
The BBC’s Mohammed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu says the fire began on Tuesday night and spread rapidly to shops selling clothes, household goods and jewellery.
Business stalls covering about a quarter of the market were reduced to ashes by the inferno. Lack of fire fighting equipment and insecurity in Mogadishu slowed down efforts to put out the fire.
About 85% of people living in Mogadishu depend on the market for all their essential goods while traders from across Somalia source merchandise from Bakara.
It is the only wholesale market in war ravaged Somalia and goods from there are sometimes exported to neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia.