Islamist insurgents loyal to a guerrilla group blacklisted by the U.S. government as terrorists attacked government forces in Somalia Thursday, sparking deadly battles that killed at least 10 people.
The first round of violence erupted during the morning hours when al Shabaab militants attacked Somali and Ethiopian military bases in north Mogadishu’s Huriwa and Yaaqshiid districts.
At least five people – all soldiers and insurgents – died during the fierce battle whereby the two sides used heavy machineguns and pounded away at each other with shells.
A shell that slammed into a home in Huriwa district wounded five family members inside, neighbors and relatives told Garowe Online.
An insurgent attack near the ex-ministry of defense headquarters sparked a brief skirmish between Ethiopian troops and the guerrillas, with at least one civilian reportedly dying in the crossfire.
Separately, two soldiers were killed in a roadside explosion in Towfiiq neighborhood. Witnesses said two other soldiers were wounded in the explosion, which completely destroyed the car.
Al Shabaab fighters claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying that 7 Ethiopian soldiers were killed during the fighting.
Yaaqshiid District Commissioner Muhiyadin Hassan Jurus told reporters that government security forces are carrying out a security operation to remove illegal militia roadblocks by force.
He was responding to two civilian deaths incurred when a battle erupted midday Thursday between government forces and roadblock militiamen. One of the dead victims was a woman, witnesses reported.
A number of roadblocks were forcefully dismantled, but locals reported seeing some of the gunmen return to the roadblocks and were « again collecting extortion money, » according to one eyewitness.
Somalia has lacked an effective national government since 1991. Ethiopia invaded the country two years ago after the Islamic Courts Union militia took control of Mogadishu and other strategic towns in the central and southern regions.
An Islamist-led rebellion since has killed upwards of 9,500 people, prompting a faction of the Islamists to sign a peace agreement with the Ethiopian-backed Somali government last month.
But Islamist hardliners like the al Shabaab group have rejected the peace deal and the ceasefire agreement that officially went into effect on 5 November.
Neither the Somali government nor the pro-peace opposition faction has publicly commented on the day’s fighting that clearly violates the ceasefire deal.