18 May, 2011
MOGADISHU — Shells fired in battles between insurgent militant Islamists and African Union forces at a Mogadishu market on Wednesday left at least 14 civilian dead, witnesses said.
“Nine victims died in two separate areas inside Bakara market, most of them women,” witness Idriss Ali told AFP.
“One round of mortar shells struck a crowded place where women sell clothes,” he said.
“These innocent women were doing their shopping when the blast hit the area,” Mohamud Said, another witness said.
Grocer Ahmed Sheikh Sahal said five other civilians, including a child, were also killed in another mortar blast near his shop.
“There was fighting going on at the frontlines when the shelling started in the afternoon.
“A mortar shell struck very close to my shop and I saw five dead bodies being recovered from the ruins of building,” he added.
Ugandan and Burundian soldiers from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) launched a “new operation” earlier this month targeting areas controlled by the Al Shebab group, force spokesman Paddy Ankunda said Monday in a telephone call.
ANISOM controls about 60 percent of the city, with seven districts under its complete control, compared with three under the control of Al Shebab, Major Ankunda said. Six other districts are still in dispute.
The African force is continuing to close in on the Bakara market, the economic heart of Mogadishu and a large source of income for Al Shebab who want to see the fall of the interim government headed by President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.
The 9000-strong AMISOM is providing the government with support in Mogadishu against Al Shebab who control large parts of the country