Somalia fighting kills 11 civilians

Published on Saturday 29th March 2008

Mogadishu (Somalia), March 29: At least 11 civilians were killed and several wounded in heavy shelling between Islamist insurgents and presidential guards in Mogadishu Saturday, witnesses told reporters.


President Abdullahi Yusuf was there at the time, an aide told reporters, but no one in the hilltop compound was hurt. Residents said Ethiopian soldiers guarding Yusuf then launched shells at the city's Bakara Market, killing a number of people, agency reports said. The insurgents began targeting the presidential palace, where Somali President Abdulahi Yusuf and Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoun Mesfin were meeting, with mortar fire. Presidential guards retaliated with heavy mortar fire, hitting an open air Bakara market where eight people were killed instantly, according to witnesses. "It was a very gruesome scene," Ibrahim Sheeq Abdulle, a shopkeeper at the scene told dpa. "Some injured people running away to get to safety," he said, adding that some of them were bleeding and the scene was chaotic. "Seven people including a woman died in the money changers' area when more than eight mortar bombs struck several parts of Bakara," shopkeeper Muse Ahmed said agency reporters. "Four people were killed inside the market's food section," said another market trader. The market is notorious for its open-air arms bazaar, and has been the site of frequent skirmishes between guerrilla fighters and government troops backed by Ethiopian forces. "At least four mortars landed at the palace. I saw smoke coming out the building as guards fired mortars in response to the shelling," Khadijo Keyre, a resident at the palace said. Yusuf and Mesfin had entered the closed door meeting at the palace earlier Saturday, with reporters banned from the venue. The Ethiopian-backed transitional government rolled into the Somali capital in January 2007, unleashing a brutal, Iraq-style insurgency that has displaced more than 600,000 people in what the United Nations calls the world's worst and most neglected humanitarian crisis. Somalia has had no effective central rule since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohammed Siad Barre, which plunged the Horn of Africa country into lawlessness and insecurity.