Somali Islamist rebels battle AU troops
Mogadishu - Somalia's Islamist rebels attacked government and African Union troops positions in the war-torn capital, killing four civilians and wounding 12 others, officials and witnesses said on Friday.
Heavy fighting broke out late on Thursday around four positions held by AU-backed government forces and included heavy machinegun fire and mortar rounds, with reports that civilian houses were caught in the crossfire.
"Terrorists launched desperate attacks on our military positions on Thursday night, but they were repelled with heavy losses, after targeting three positions in the south and one in the northern part of the city," said Colonel Ahmed Ibrahim, a Somali government military official.
"They are very weak, but are trying to pretend that they are still a fighting force by such attacks," he said, adding that two government soldiers were wounded.
However, witnesses said the fighting was so intense that people in many parts of the city could hear the sound of the battle.
"Four civilians were killed in the Yaqshid area last night after a mortar struck their houses, the fighting was very heavy and so everybody was worried," said Habibo Mumin, a witness.
Medical sources said that at least 12 people were wounded, with six admitted to Mogadishu's Medina hospital.
Despite withdrawing from fixed positions in Mogadishu in August, the hardline Shabaab militia have vowed to continue waging war against the Western-backed Somali government and the AU troops protecting it.
"It was like organised attack, because there was fighting around several locations including Karan, Deyniile, Huriwa and parts of the Industrial Road," Gure Yasin, another resident, said.
"Some people were caught in the crossfire and others hit by mortars," said Abdirahman Mohamed, another resident close to the fighting.
"Some of the victims had only recently returned home to the neighbourhood after al-Shabaab pulled out, but it now looks that the war will never end," he added.