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19 Killed in Somalia Clash

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

MOGADISHU, Somalia —  Islamic militants firing rockets and mortars clashed with Somali troops and their Ethiopian allies in fighting that killed at least 17 civilians and two Ethiopian soldiers in the capital, witnesses said Tuesday.

The fighting occurred late Monday as Somali and Ethiopian troops conducted house-to-house searches in Mogadishu's northern Hiliwa district, traditional elder Mohamud Haji Nur said.

Insurgents also fired mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at a former pasta factory where the Ethiopians have a military base. The Ethiopians responded with artillery shells that slammed into nearby residential areas, Nur said.

He said his men collected the bodies of 15 civilians.

"Some died while fleeing the fighting while others died in their homes when Ethiopian mortars responding to insurgent attacks slammed into their houses," Nur said.

Two Ethiopian soldiers died in the clashes, said another elder, Ali Bashir Ahmed Siyad.

In a separate incident in the south of the capital, the bodies of two young men were retrieved from Monday fighting in which insurgents attacked government troops based at a key junction near the city's main Bakara market.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since 1991. Thousands of Somalis were killed last year in fighting between Islamic insurgents and a shaky transitional government supported by Ethiopian forces.

The insurgents vowed to fight an Iraq-style insurgency after their brief hold on parts of southern Somalia was broken by Ethiopian troops in December 2006.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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