11 civilians killed in Somali fighting

MOGADISHU - Fighting in the north of Somalia's capital Mogadishu killed at least 11 people yesterday as government troops and Islamist fighters battled for control of the area, an ambulance official said.

MOGADISHU - Fighting in the north of Somalia's capital Mogadishu killed at least 11 people yesterday as government troops and Islamist fighters battled for control of the area, an ambulance official said.

Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab fighters are trying to hold on to the city's north, which puts the presidential palace, known as Villa Somalia, within easy range of their crude mortar rockets.

The government controls just a few blocks of the war-scarred coastal city and its security forces have been fighting to regain Mogadishu's north.

"We have carried 11 dead civilians and 48 others injured this morning," said Ali Muse, the coordinator of ambulance services.

Most of the victims lived in Mogadishu's Kaaran district, the scene of heavy exchanges of shellfire between the two sides.

The fighting was continuing, he said, and the death toll was expected to rise.

Residents said the government soldiers were backed by African Union peacekeepers in armoured vehicles. Last month, al Shabaab claimed its forces would soon seize the palace.

Tensions also remained high in the Galgadud region of central Somalia where clashes between al Shabaab insurgents and the Sufi militia Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca killed 24 people on Wednesday. - Reuters

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