MOGADISHU, Somalia Apr 19 (Garowe Online) -
At least 20 people were killed in Somalia on Saturday after suspected insurgents ambushed Ethiopian soldiers, local sources said.
The intense battle spread out across three districts in the northern quarter of the capital Mogadishu, with Ethiopian troops expanding into insurgent strongholds for the first time in weeks.
A witness near Mogadishu's livestock market, in Huriwa district, told Garowe Online that he saw the dead bodies of four Ethiopian soldiers lying on the ground.
Other witnesses in Daynile and Yaaqshiid districts reported high civilian casualties, including a shell that hit a crowded restaurant, killing several people.
The fighting, which lasted for more than an hour, ended after Ethiopian soldiers withdrew back to their bases at the ex-pasta factory and Stadium Mogadishu, witnesses said.
Locals in Huriwa and Yaaqshiid districts reported that heavily-armed insurgents remained on the streets long after the Ethiopian soldiers retreated to base.
A spokesman for the Islamic Courts confirmed that seven rebels were killed in the fighting, but claimed that a larger number of Ethiopian soldiers also died.
Ali Moallim Bile, an administrator at Mogadishu's Keysaney Hospital, said 20 men, women and children with various wounds were admitted today for treatment.
Overnight Friday, four people including a Somali soldier and an insurgent fighter were killed after rebels attacked a government checkpoint.
In a separate incident, a Somali intelligence agent was shot and killed by three men armed with pistols, relatives said.
Ali Wareto died after sustaining three gunshots to the head in front of his home in Kaaraan district. Relatives said it was the fifth time insurgents tried to assassinate him.
Somalia's rebels, led by remnants of the Islamic Courts movement, want to expel Ethiopian troops from the country and topple the weak interim government.
Upwards of 7,000 people have been killed since January 2007, when the Ethiopian army overthrew Mogadishu's Islamic Courts rulers.
Source: Garowe Online