29 November 2007

Somalia: 15 Killed As Insurgents, Ethiopians Duel in Capital

Ethiopian forces backing Somalia's weak interim government commenced on routine search and seize operations in parts of the capital Mogadishu on Thursday when suspected insurgents opened fire, igniting an hours-long battle that killed at least 15 people.

The fighting started in northern Mogadishu's Huriwa district, around the livestock market area, when insurgents using machineguns and rockets attacked the Ethiopian unit.

The Ethiopian army responded by calling in reinforcements. Ethiopian troops used tanks and other heavy weapons to shell suspected insurgent hideouts, according to residents.

Many of the people that died in today's battle are civilians, with emerging reports indicating that some civilians were killed when shells slammed into their homes.

An administrator at Mogadishu's Keysaney Hospital told Garowe Online that 23 wounded victims were admitted by midday today, mostly people wounded in the latest security operation in Huriwa district.

The source confirmed that two of the wounded victims died at the hospital.

The heavy fighting slowed down by 2pm local time, but residents said they could still hear sporadic gunfire.

A chemical storage facility caught fire during the battle, officials and residents said.

Many Huriwa families said they could not flee their homes, for fear of being caught in the middle of the war. But as the day progressed and the fighting came to a gradual halt, civilians began leaving their homes to seek safety and shelter in other parts of Mogadishu.

Abdullahi Shasha, a Mogadishu police spokesman, called today's campaign a joint operation carried out by Somali and Ethiopian security forces to "cleanse anti-peace groups" who have targeted military bases in recent nights.

Mogadishu government spokesman, Mohamed Muhiyadin Ali, claimed that today's security operation was "successful," adding that many insurgents were killed or captured alive.

The United Nations estimates that 1 million Somalis have been displaced so far this year, as fighting intensifies between Islamist and clan rebels and Ethiopian-backed government forces.

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