(AFP) – 3 days ago
MOGADISHU — Four civilians were killed on Saturday after clashes broke out between Somali soldiers backed by African Union forces and Al Qaeda-inspired insurgents, medical sources and witnesses said.
The clashes erupted before dawn in the Somali capital’s southern Hodan and Holwadag neighbourhoods.
“There was a heavy exchange of mortar and artillery fire this morning in several districts,” Ali Muse — who heads Mogadishu’s ambulance services — told AFP.
“Our teams so far are reporting that two civilians were killed and 11 wounded but the toll could rise because sporadic fighting is still ongoing,” he added.
Witnesses reported that two other civilians were killed near Bakara market, a stronghold of the Islamist Shebab rebels, when a shell struck a home.
“I saw the dead bodies of two civilians killed by a stray artillery shell. Their burnt remains were discovered inside their house, which was destroyed by the artillery explosion,” said Ahmed Said Jiis, a local resident.
Several other eye witnesses gave the same account.
Somali government officials confirmed that their forces were involved in fighting but could not immediately provide further details.
The clashes came after a period of relative calm in Mogadishu, where Shebab insurgents have been attempting to break the weak Western-backed transitional federal government’s last defences for close to two years.
Civilians have borne the brunt of the years-old fighting for control of Mogadishu, with thousands killed and hundreds of thousands displaced over the past four years.