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Updated: August 24, 2010 15:35 IST

12 Somalis killed in two-day Mogadishu battle

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A nurse at Medina hospital in Mogadishu, attends to a wounded child after she was wounded by mortar shell on Monday. Photo: AP.
A nurse at Medina hospital in Mogadishu, attends to a wounded child after she was wounded by mortar shell on Monday. Photo: AP.

At least 12 people, including two government soldiers, were killed in two days of battle between Islamist militants and government forces backed by African Union peacekeepers, officials said on Monday.

Medics found the bodies of five people in homes on Sunday, while another five were found on Monday, said Ali Muse, the head of Mogadishu’s ambulance service. Two government soldiers were also killed.

Mr. Muse said 43 people were injured in the fighting. Quranic teacher Moalin Ali Mohamud said among the wounded were 10 children hurt when a mortar slammed into their school.

Somali civilians have borne the brunt of nearly two decades of conflict in their country, and human rights groups and aid agencies have repeatedly accused the warring sides of targeting civilians.

Al—Shabab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab said his group launched the attacks on Sunday and captured new territory in the northern parts of the city where most of the fighting took place.

Government officials, who earlier denied the claim, admitted losing some ground to the militants in Sunday’s attacks.

“Our soldiers repelled the terrorists and regained control of the areas we lost in Sunday evening’s battle,” said Hassan Kulmiye Alasow, the deputy chairman of Bodhere district.

Mr. Alasow said government forces launched a counterattack on Monday morning to recapture a government office they lost to al—Shabab, a group which has been linked to al—Qaeda, on Sunday.

Al—Shabab last week claimed responsibility for twin bombings in Uganda during the World Cup final, attacks that killed 76 people.

Mr. Muse said all the fallen civilians died in the shelling and mortars exchanged between the two sides.

The Islamic insurgents have been trying for three years to overthrow the fragile, U.N.—backed government, which is holed up in a small section of the capital.

Somalia has been without a functioning government for 19 years, and militants control much of the country’s southern and central regions, including large swaths of Mogadishu. The lawlessness has allowed piracy to flourish off Somalia’s coastline.

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