Shelling kills at least 15, injures 64 in Somali market

June 8th, 2008 - 5:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Mogadishu (Somalia), June 8 (DPA) At least 15 people were killed and 64 wounded Sunday when shells rained down on an open market in the Somalian capital during fighting between government troops and Islamic insurgents, witnesses and officials said. Eyewitness said that around 20 mortar shells landed on the Bakara market early Sunday morning as government and Ethiopian soldiers raided the market to flush out insurgents.

The insurgents responded and put up fierce resistance, prompting the advancing troops to launch an artillery barrage into and around the market.

“I saw people lying on the ground everywhere - I didn’t know whether they were dead or just wounded,” Du’ale Salah, who runs a shop in the area, told DPA.

“The shells came flying in groups of three or four - we were hiding in concrete buildings,” she added.

Another witness told dpa that he saw four soldiers and one insurgent die in the battle.

Hospital officials said that 64 civilians, among them at least six children, had been admitted with shrapnel wounds. A pregnant women was amongst the dead, they said.

Violence has ramped up in Mogadishu since transitional federal government troops and their Ethiopian allies in late 2006 wrested control of Mogadishu from the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC).

The UIC had stabilized the south and central regions, including the capital city, for six months.

Al-Shabaab, the armed wing of the courts, has since waged a bloody guerrilla war that shows no sign of letting up.

The United Nations has been attempting to broker talks in neighbouring Djibouti, but opposition groups say there can be no peace until Ethiopian troops leave Somalia.

However, with only a few thousand Ugandan and Burundian troops from an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, the government has said it does not want to accede to the demand and create a security vacuum.

Somalia has been in a state of anarchy since the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, but aid agencies are now warning that the conflict is worsening and that the Horn of Africa nation is facing a massive humanitarian crisis.

Hundreds of thousands have fled Mogadishu in recent months to avoid being added to the mounting civilian death toll.

Aid agencies say that millions of people are now dependent on aid as a consequence of the conflict, a drought and rising food prices.

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