Source: Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Date: 30 Nov 2010
MOGADISHU — A heavy firefight between African Union forces protecting Somalia’s fragile government and Islamist rebels killed at least nine civilians in Mogadishu Tuesday, medical sources and witnesses said.
Witnesses said many of the civilians were killed in Bakara market in southern Mogadishu which was struck by mortars fired by the AU forces.
“Our medical team has collected around nine civilians who were killed in the shelling in Bakara market and neighborhoods in northern Mogadishu’s Karan district. They also reported 21 injured civilians,” said Ali Muse, the head of Mogadishu’s ambulance service.
Other witnesses said as many as 11 civilians were killed in the latest fighting.
“The African forces started firing heavy artillery shells at Bakara and other neighbourhoods after fighting broke out at their positions in Hodan and Karan districts. I saw 11 civilians killed in the shelling, five of them in one spot at Bakara,” said Omar Moalim Adan, a witness.
Another witness, Deqow Ahmed, who counted “more than ten dead” said the mortars were fired from the Ugandan forces’ base in the Debka area of town.
“Mortar fire was raining down on the market while many were shopping. It was a terrible incident and everyone rushed to take cover in the concrete buildings,” Ahmed explained.
Somali government forces denied accusations by residents that the AU troops — comprising Ugandan and Burundian soldiers — were firing indiscriminately at residential areas.
“The violent elements were firing mortars and anti-aircraft weapons during the fighting and the African Union troops returned fire. But I can assure you that they never targeted civilian populated areas,” said Abdi Isa, a government security official.
The AU mission officials were unreachable for comment.
Heavy fighting between the two sides has killed hundreds of civilians and driven tens of thousands of others from the capital.
The Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab insurgents and an allied militant group have waged attacks to overthrow Somalia’s transitional government, but have been unable to do so due to the backing by the AU contingent, which numbers more than 7,000 troops.