, MOGADISHU, Mar 3 – Artillery exchanges in the Somali capital Mogadishu during clashes between Islamist militants and government forces have killed at least 11 civilians, witnesses and medical sources said.
Both sides exchanged artillery fire during the fighting, which broke out Friday in the south and the north of the city.
"Eleven civilians including children were killed in the clashes, which ended in the evening," Ali Muse, head of Mogadishu ambulance services, told AFP.
"The ambulances also collected 26 others who were injured," he added.
"Seven of them died in northern Mogadishu while the other four died in Bakara," the city\’s biggest market, which is in the south.
Most of the seven civilians killed in northern Mogadishu came from the same family, said local resident Farah Abdulahi Jumale.
"A mortar struck a house in Manbolyon neighbourhood killing six family members," Jumale said.
"It was (a) terrible incident and everybody was shocked."
In another significant development, members of the moderate Sufi Ahlusuna sect said they had fought alongside government troops.
Their fighters had given "unforgettable lessons to the enemy who characterized to harm our society," Nur Sheik Ali, spokesman for the group said.
Although the group has previously fought the hardline Shabaab militia in the central Galgudud region, if confirmed, this would be the first time they had cooperated directly with government forces.
Several Somali government officials reached by AFP, while confirming the fighting, would not confirm the participation of the Ahlusuna.
The Ahlusuna ("Companions of the Prophet") sect was founded in 1991 to defend the interests of Somalian Sufis from the growing influence of Wahabism, a more radical strain of Islam from the Gulf states.
The sect took up arms in 2009 after the Shebab destroyed a number of mausoleums housing celebrated sufis.