At Least 9 Killed in Heavy Fighting in Somali Capital

At least nine people, including three soldiers, were killed on Saturday in heavy fighting in the capital between insurgents and Somali and Ethiopian soldiers, said witnesses.

Insurgents fired machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades at Somali soldiers on patrol in the southern part of Mogadishu, said Mumin Mohamed Sahal and Muse Abdulle Hassan, who separately witnessed the fighting. Ethiopian soldiers, who are supporting the Somali government, later joined in.

"I saw the dead bodies of five civilians and a government soldier in different places in our village," Hassan told The Associated Press on phone.

Doctors at Mogadishu hospitals said they were treating at least 13 civilians wounded in Saturday's violence.

In a separate battle at Mogadishu's main market, Bakara, insurgents armed with pistols shot dead two Somali soldiers and when other soldiers fought back, a woman was killed in the crossfire, said Ali-Sharif Muhidin, a shop owner at the market.

"The killed soldiers were stealing mobile phones and other valuables from the people traveling on public buses ... before they were shot," said Muhidin.

Thousands of Somalis have been killed in fighting between Islamic insurgents and Ethiopian troops supporting Somalia's shaky government over the past 14 months.

The Islamists vowed to fight on after the Ethiopians dislodged them from power in December 2006. They had taken control of the capital and much of southern Somalia for six months before they were pushed into the bush.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one another. A web of clan loyalties and the involvement of archenemies Eritrea and Ethiopia further complicates the conflict in the impoverished country.