MOGADISHU, Somalia Mar 30 (Garowe Online) -
At least 11 people were killed Monday in southern Somalia as separate battles erupted in Mogadishu and near Baidoa, Radio Garowe reports.
Fighting erupted in the capital Mogadishu among government soldiers, lasting for nearly one hour and wounding at least five people, including civilians.
Witnesses said the battle was between Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers and Islamic Courts fighters loyal to President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.
"The fighting lasted for one hour and I saw four dead fighters," said a witness along Maka Al Mukarrama Road, where the battle was concentrated.
The Islamic Courts fighters eventually retreated, leaving TFG soldiers in control of a key intersection. The flow of human and commercial traffic was briefly halted during the battle, witnesses said.
Sheikh Sharif, Somalia's new Islamist president, has pledged to combine TFG and Islamic Courts fighters into the new Somali army. But sporadic clashes in Mogadishu have threatened the government's grip on power.
Mogadishu is teeming with various armed factions, including Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam [Party of Islam], who have rejected Sheikh Sharif'
s government and vowed to continue the war.
The African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM) maintains a 4,000-strong peacekeeping force in Mogadishu, with emerging reports indicating a plan to boost the peacekeepers.
Somali Islamist rebels have demanded the withdrawal of AMISOM, although President Sheikh Sharif recently stated that AMISOM will stay to train Somali government soldiers.
Separately, heavy fighting was reported overnight Sunday in the outskirts of Baidoa, a former parliament town now under the control of Al Shabaab.
"We found information that an enemy force was located 30km from Baidoa and the Mujahideen [fighters] attacked them," said the Al Shabaab commander in Bay and Bakool regions, Sheikh Hassan Mohamed "Abu Ayman."
Local sources reported that the fighting took place at a town named Saydhelow, where TFG-allied clan militias expelled from Bay region were gathering.
At least seven people, including a female civilian, were killed in the battle and 10 others wounded, according to independent reports.
Abu Ayman told reporters that the woman was "killed in the crossfire" by Al Shabaab fighters, while expressing regret over the incident.
The TFG-appointed governor of Bakool region, Mr. Hassan Bikole, also confirmed the battle in separate comments to the media.
"The fighting started at 10pm after the evil group Al Shabaab attacked us. We killed four of them and they killed two of our soldiers and burned one of our trucks," Mr. Bikole claimed.
Al Shabaab and the TFG-allied clan militias fought earlier this month in Bakool region, as the clan militias try to regain control of Baidoa from Al Shabaab.
Much of south-central Somalia has been mired in conflict since 1991, when the Horn of Africa country's last effective ruler was overthrown by clan warlords.
Sheikh Sharif's government, the 15th attempt to restore national order since, controls a few sections of Mogadishu as opposition groups dominate much of the country.
Source: Garowe Online