At least 15 people were killed and 25 others wounded Wednesday in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu after insurgents attacked the Villa Somalia presidential compound, Radio Garowe reported.
Six mortars hit Villa Somalia and its environs, followed by face-to-face street fighting between government troops and al Shabaab insurgents, according to witnesses.
Some mortars reportedly hit locations inside Mogadishu’s sprawling Bakara Market, while other mortars hit neighborhoods of Wardhigley district. At least four dead bodies were discovered inside Bakara, witnesses said.
Five civilians were killed when mortars aimed at the presidential palace hit nearby homes.
Locals reported seeing six dead bodies – all of them soldiers and insurgents – in parts of Wardhigley district, where most of the heavy fighting was concentrated.
Medical sources at Medina Hospital said the wounded included many women and children.
A spokesman for the al Shabaab insurgents claimed responsiblity for the violence, saying they killed 14 soldiers and suffered four wounded fighters on their side.
Col. Dahir Mohamed Hersi, a spokesman for the Somali military, told reporters that government security forces killed at least 8 al Shabaab fighters.
He confirmed that some mortars hit Bakara Market, but blamed al Shabaab for the violence.
Separately, insurgents attacked African Union peacekeepers overnight Tuesday but there were no casualty reports available.
Somalia has been marred by violence since the outbreak of civil war in 1991. In 2004, a UN-endorsed transitional government came to power and soon invited Ethiopian troops to help restore order in Mogadishu, after ousting the capital’s Islamist rulers.
The Islamists, including al Shabaab, have since waged a relentless guerrilla campaign aimed at toppling the interim government and expelling its Ethiopian military backers from Somali soil.