Top Somali cop gunned down

MOGADISHU - The city's top policeman was among 13 people killed as the six-week-old power struggle between the Somali government and insurgents led to fresh clashes in the capital.

The fighting - which has already killed more than 250 people - claimed the lives of five children, killed by a single mortar.

Witnesses said Colonel Ali Said Hassan was killed during fierce attacks that broke out in the Mogadishu's southern Hodan district yesterday.

"The commander of the Mogadishu police died in the line of duty," said a senior police official.

"He was a brave officer who expended tremendous effort to peace. He was killed by terrorists."

"We are all to die to bring peace and fight anti-peace terrorists and their foreign backers."

The pre-dawn combat erupted when government forces attacked areas controlled by Islamist insurgents, a day after a battle that left six dead in a northern neighbourhood.

"There was intense fighting when the security forces engaged troublemakers this morning," a Somali police commander said.

Other police sources said three more policemen were killed in the fighting. Witnesses also said nine civilians, five of them children in a neighbourhood, had died in mortar fire.

An AFP reporter saw the bodies of the five children - aged between nine and 14 years - lying in pools of blood under a balcony where they had sought shelter from shelling.- Sapa-AFP