14 Somali civilians killed in battle

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — At least 14 civilians were killed Tuesday during a prolonged battle between government soldiers and Islamic insurgents that followed a separate suicide car bomb attack in Somalia's capital, officials and a witness said.

Four people were wounded, including two African Union troops, in the suicide attack outside an AU base earlier Tuesday.

After the attack, Islamic insurgents attacked government soldiers and Islamic militiamen allied to the government as they moved between bases in southern Mogadishu. The clash sparked a four-hour battle. Ali Araf, a tailor in the area, said he counted the bodies of eight people. Araf also said on phone that he was slightly wounded during the battle in which both sides pounded each other with mortars.

Ali Muse, the head of Mogadishu's ambulance service, said his group had counted six other bodies and took about 40 wounded people to hospitals.

Earlier Tuesday, al-Qaida-linked group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the car-bomb attack on the AU base.

AU spokesman Maj. Barigye Bahoku said a truck full of explosives pulled up to a new AU base and that two soldiers opened fire on the truck. Those two were wounded when the explosion went off. The suicide attacker was the only one to die in the attack.

Muse said two civilians were also wounded.

Somalia has been without a functioning government for 19 years, and militants control large parts of Mogadishu. The Islamic insurgents have been trying for three years to overthrow the fragile, U.N.-backed government.