Islamist insurgents in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, launched an attack on government troops and African Union peacekeepers before dawn Friday, prompting intense clashes that killed at least 22 people.
Frightened residents took cover as the battle raged around them, with mortars slamming into homes and heavy gunfire being exchanged.
|Dead bodies lay near a street in southern Mogadishu’s K4 junction, 21 Aug 2009|
Witnesses and local officials say most of the dead are civilians. At least 40 people are reported wounded.
The government and allied militias are engaged in fierce fighting with Islamist militant groups, led by al-Shabab, to recapture large parts of the country.
Witnesses in the town of Beledweyne claim Ethiopian troops entered the strategic town Friday. Ethiopian officials could not be reached for comment on the claims.
On Thursday, a spokesman for the Ethiopian government, Bereket Simon, denied claims that Ethiopian troops are actively engaged in Somalia’s civil war. But he confirmed that pro-government Somali militia are being allowed to use Ethiopian territory to launch attacks against rebels in Somalia.
On Thursday, fighting in central Somalia between pro-government forces and Islamic militants killed at least 33 people. The fighting erupted in the town of Bula Burte, which had been under the control of al-Shabab.
Fighting in Bula Burte slowed on Friday. It is not clear which side now controls the town.
Government troops recaptured control of two other towns earlier this week.