20/03/08 (B439) ALL AFRICA : des insurgés contraignent des militaires éthiopiens à abandonner un camp militaire. Somalia: Insurgents Force Ethiopian Soldiers to Vacate Army Base (En Anglais – Info lecteur)

Heavy fighting erupted in the Somali capital early Wednesday morning after Islamist rebels attacked an Ethiopian army base in northern Mogadishu, our correspondent reported.

At least six people – three Ethiopian soldiers and three insurgents – have been confirmed dead during the battle, which lasted for nearly five hours, according to witnesses.

More than 10 civilians were wounded during the onslaught. Locals who live in and around Mogadishu’s livestock market in Huriwa district said they could not leave their homes during the battle.

Ethiopian troops stationed at the Maslah army camp spread into the livestock market and were reportedly moving equipment and other military materials to the ex-pasta factory when they came under gunfire.

The fighting started off slowly, but gradually strengthened as more insurgents joined the battle and Ethiopian soldiers left their barracks at the former pasta factory base to reinforce troops at Maslah.

The Ethiopian army used tanks against insurgents who used mortars and rockets during the battle. Several shells hit neighborhoods but casualties could not be confirmed yet.

Military sources in Mogadishu tell Garowe Online that the Ethiopian troops stationed at the Maslah camp were being relocated to the pasta factory, citing logistical difficulties that impacted the supply route.

The latest reports indicate that Islamist gunmen had successfully captured Maslah camp after the Ethiopian troops withdrew towards the ex-pasta factory.

A bloody insurgency has gripped Mogadishu since January 2007 when Ethiopian troops helped install the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government in the Somali capital.

Thousands of people have been killed and more than half a million civilians displaced from their homes in Mogadishu since, according to human rights groups.