By Hamsa Omar
At least 16 Somali civilians died after fighting yesterday between Ethiopian and Somali government soldiers and Islamist insurgents in northern districts of the capital, Mogadishu, according to eyewitnesses and radio reports.
The battle started when Islamist fighters fired mortars at camps housing government troops. Four Islamist fighters were killed, said military spokesman Colonel Dahir Mohamed Hersi, who denied there were casualties on the government side.
« Two of our martyrs died in the battle and three others were injured, » Sheikh Abdi Rihin Isse Adow, a spokesman for the insurgents, said yesterday evening in a phone interview. « We also killed six soldiers. »
Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia in December 2006 to help the United Nations-backed transitional federal government oust an Islamic militia from southern and central parts of the country. A June 9 preliminary cease-fire agreement calls for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops and their replacement with a United Nations peacekeeping force.
Following the battle, government shelling of Islamist strongholds in the city killed civilians in the Huriwaa district and Aladale village.
« A shell landed on my neighbor’s home, killing two children aged six and eight, » Huriwaa resident Sadeek Jamal said in a phone interview.
Seven people were killed as they sheltered against a building in northern Mogadishu, Radio Shabelle reported.