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A Somali mob killed an Associated Press photographer and a Reuters photographer Monday after U.N. helicopters blasted targets in southern Mogadishu, witnesses reported.

Supporters of a Somali warlord who has been blamed for attacks on U.N. troops said up to 73 Somalis died in the helicopter assault, but the claim could not be confirmed.Two other Reuters journalists were missing, and the news agency said they were feared dead.

Somali interpreters and drivers employed by the news agencies reported seeing the bodies of Hansi Krauss, an AP photographer from Germany, and photographer Dan Eldon, a Briton who worked for Reuters out of Kenya.

A correspondent for Italian state television, Ilaria Alpi, returned safely to a hotel that houses most foreign journalists after being reported missing. She said she escaped the mob assault by hiding.

Mohamed Shaffi, another Reuters TV soundman from Kenya, was reported stabbed, shot in the leg and stoned by the mob. He was rescued by colleagues and taken to a U.S. Army field hospital.

Reporters and photographers headed toward the scene of the helicopter assault in several vehicles shortly after the bombardment ended. The six journalists got separated from the rest of their colleagues, who were driven away by gunfire. Somali interpreters and drivers returned later and reported seeing the three bodies.

U.N. troops have stepped up efforts to restore order in this chaotic city over the past week. Somali gunmen have been roaming the streets virtually at will since 24 Pakistani U.N. soldiers were slain in an ambush June 5, opening a round of attacks on U.N. forces that have killed a total of 35 soldiers and wounded 137.

Krauss was the second AP journalist to die on the job in three months. Sharon Herbaugh, chief of the AP bureau in Islamabad, Pakistan, died April 16 in a helicopter crash in the mountains of Afghanistan.

A Somali who worked for the AP as an interpreter, Ali Ibrahim Mursal, was shot to death Jan. 5 while trying to protect a reporter from a robber in Mogadishu's main market. Jean-Claude Jumel, a French sound technician, was killed June 18 when gunmen ambushed a news crew from France's TF1 network.

The mob assault came after American Cobra and Blackhawk helicopters fired about six missiles and strafed targets with 20mm cannon near Digfer Hospital, the scene of heavy fighting last month between Somali gunmen and U.N. forces.

A U.N. military spokesman said the attack was directed at a command center of fugitive warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid, whose militiamen have been blamed for recent attacks on U.N. peacekeepers. The assault also was retaliation for last week's murder of six Somali civilians working for the United Nations.

Aidid loyalists said one of the targets was the home of Abdi Hassan Awali, a close aide of the warlord and internal affairs secretary of his United Somali Congress-Somali National Alliance.

The attack, lasting about 20 minutes, was met by machine gun and small arms fire.

Soon afterward, angry crowds took to the streets in several locations in the southern half of the city.

By late afternoon, supporters of Aidid's faction brought at least 14 corpses in trucks to the gate of a hotel occupied by journalists.

Hussein Dimbil, who claimed to be a spokesman for the United Somali Congress, said at least 73 civilians died in the helicopter attack.

Plumes of black smoke could be seen rising amid rambling buildings in the southwest of this seaside capital. At least 10 helicopters swooped low over the buildings, withholding fire, or hovered at higher altitude.