At least 12 killed in fighting in Somali capital

UN refugee agency says that over 200,000 people have fled Mogadishu's violence since February.

somalia wounded 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
somalia wounded 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
At least 12 people were killed on Thursday during fighting between Ethiopian troops backing Somalia's fragile government and insurgents in the capital, said witnesses, hours after an Ethiopian military truck exploded on the capital's outskirts. Fighting between the two sides resumed Thursday after a day's pause. Businessman Ahmed Warsame said that he heard mortars hitting his southwestern Mogadishu neighborhood, after which he went out to see who may need help and saw eight bodies on the street. Warsame told The Associated Press on phone that the eight's belongings were strewn on the street, suggesting that they had been trying to flee the capital. The UN refugee agency says that over 200,000 people have fled Mogadishu's violence since February. University student Abdillahi Hassan Ali said that after mortars hit houses near his in northern Mogadishu, he went out to see whether anyone needed help and found four bodies in one house. Safya Muse, who lives in the same neighborhood as Ali, told The Associated Press by phone that Ethiopian soldiers made a new base Thursday at a street junction near her home, in an area called Kungal. The area is a known base for insurgents. Thursday's fighting comes after two days of on-off street battles between Ethiopian troops and insurgents that saw both sides use tank shells, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. Some residents characterized the fighting as the most intense in many years. At least 14 people were killed in the fighting and dozens injured. Earlier Thursday, Yusuf Osman said by phone that he heard an Ethiopian truck explode after it had passed his small pharmacy on the outskirts of the capital. Ali Hussein Mohamed, a street vendor, told The Associated Press on the phone that he saw 10 injured Ethiopian soldiers lying on the ground. Osman said that Ethiopian soldiers in a second truck opened fire on a nearby minibus. He saw two injured people, but he did not know if anyone was killed. Policemen from a nearby station then cordoned off the area, said Osman. It was not clear what caused the explosion. Neither government nor police officials were immediately available for comment. Somali troops backed by Ethiopian forces ousted the country's Islamic movement in December from Mogadishu and other strongholds. Remnants of the Islamic group have vowed to wage an Iraq-style insurgency and the capital has seen of waves of violence. The most deadly began in late March and saw hundreds of people killed, most of them civilians. Diplomats have said, though, that also involved in the violence are clan militias that are not necessarily linked to the Islamic insurgents. Clan elders and Ethiopian military officials have negotiated truces in the past but these have not held for long. Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one another, throwing the country into anarchy. A transitional government was formed in 2004 with UN help, but has struggled to maintain control over the country.