6 Somalis killed in mortar attack

2012-03-19 12:38
Mogadishu - At least six Somali civilians were killed after mortar shells struck their camp for displaced people near the presidential palace in the capital Mogadishu, witnesses said on Monday.

"A father, mother and two of their children have all died, after a mortar shell smashed into their hut, and another round killed two other civilians," said Abdiwahid Mohamed, a witness.

"People were sleeping when the mortar shells started falling," said Colonel Bare Mohamed, a government security official.

"It killed a number of civilians at a camp near the presidential palace," he said, adding an investigation had been launched as to who fired the shells.

Several people were injured in the attacks around midnight on Sunday, in which witnesses said several shells were fired.

"At least six mortar shells struck around the camp, and three of them hit inside killing people - apart from the dead, seven others were also injured," said Muktar Ali, another witness.

"We are burying the dead at a cemetery not far away from the camp," he added.

Major threat

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, which was believed to have been targeting the presidential palace close by to the camp, one of many crowded settlements of basic shelters scattered through the war-wracked city.

The presidency - guarded by a 10 000-strong African Union force - has come under several recent attacks, including a suicide bomber attack last week claimed by the al-Qaeda allied Shabaab insurgents, killing five people.

The hardline Islamists have resorted to guerrilla tactics after the majority abandoned fixed bases in Mogadishu in August.

The Shabaab last month also lost control of their strategic base of Baidoa to Ethiopian troops and pro-government Somali forces, the second major loss in six months, after their retreat from Mogadishu.

However, experts warn the Shabaab are far from defeated and remain a major threat, especially now they have switched to guerrilla tactics in many areas after leaving fixed fighting positions.

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