, MOGADISHU, Mar 3 – At least nine Somalis were killed and more than 30 wounded in an exchange of fire between government forces and Islamist insurgents in Mogadishu, witnesses and medics said Wednesday.
Government forces moved in late Tuesday on positions held by fighters from the Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab rebel group in the southern area of Tarbunka, sparking a heavy exchange of gunfire and mortar rounds.
"Five civilians, including a child, died near Bakara. Three of them were killed by a mortar shell while the other two were caught in the crossfire," local trader Hussein Mohamed told AFP.
Several other Mogadishu residents who witnessed the intense skirmish gave the same provisional death toll.
A senior medical source added that three wounded people died of their injuries shortly after being admitted to hospital.
"More than 30 civilians injured during the clashes were brought in and so far three of them died," Mohamed Yusuf, director of the capital\’s main Medina hospital, told reporters.
Government security officials claimed their forces had killed several insurgents during the attack.
"The Somali government forces battled bravely against the terrorists who had fired on their positions near Tarbunka. They pushed the enemy back and killed several of them," officer Abdullahi Mohamed Sanka told AFP.
He added that one government soldier was killed in the exchange of fire and three others wounded.
The Shebab did not admit to any losses and claimed their fighters had captured government positions.
"The enemy tried to terrorise the civilians living in Bakara by attacking the positions of our mujahideen (holy warriors). Praise be upon Allah for giving our fighters the ability to defeat the enemy today," said Sheikh Ali Hussein, the group\’s regional governor.
"Our mujahideens are now in the trenches that were occupied by the apostate militias and they have seized weapons caches and armed vehicles from the enemy," the Shebab leader told AFP.
Belligerent factions in Mogadishu have been locked in a tense stand-off for weeks, amid expectations of an imminent offensive by the government and its African Union backers to wrest the country back from the insurgency.