MOGADISHU, Somalia Sep 28 (Garowe Online) -
Somali insurgents launched one of the heaviest attacks in months in the capital Mogadishu tonight as hungry residents preparing to break the day's fast ran for cover inside their homes.
A police station in south Mogadishu's Hodan district came under attack at around 7pm local time Friday. Insurgents used rocket launchers, grenades and machine guns with the police using heavy force to defend themselves.
Hodan residents said the fierce gun battle lasted for 45 minutes before police were able to repel the attackers.
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In a separate attack, Somali army positions at Terebunka came under RPG fire with troops leaving their barracks to engage the attackers, witnesses said. Neighbors kept their heads to the ground as the attack continued.
Troops stationed at Gulwadayasha camp in south Mogadishu also came under insurgent attack.
Ethiopian forces stationed at the ex-ministry of defense building were attacked by suspected insurgents using machineguns and rockets, neighbors reported.
Residents in the southern quarters of Tawakal and Gubta reported that mortars began slamming into area buildings at around 8pm local time. It was not immediately clear the original source of the mortar shells.
Casualties were difficult to confirm in all these attacks but sources warned that the death toll from tonight's bloody battles could be the highest in months.
Abdullahi Omar Ibrahim, deputy police spokesman, confirmed to Garowe Online that insurgents attacked at least four government positions inside Mogadishu tonight.
He declined to comment on casualty figures but said security forces were "prepared" for such attacks tonight coming from "anti-peace groups."
Ibrahim said reports that Somali and Ethiopian forces vacated their positions around Mogadishu University and Barakat Cemetery is false. He said the troops were in their positions conducting routine security operations.
Mogadishu families began leaving their homes earlier today as street rumors spread that insurgents would launch deadly attacks on Somali-Ethiopian forces tonight to mark a historic battle in Islamic history.
Areas where hundreds of families were leaving include Arafat, Tawakal, Gubta, Towfiiq, SOS, and Huriwa including the livestock market area.
Haji Abdul Rage, an elder who lived near the livestock market, said he has never fled Mogadishu in 17 years of violence.
"I am fleeing today because I see them [both sides] preparing for war," Rage said, adding that he and neighbors' families could not find vehicles for transport and were forced to walk a long road to safety.
Nearly 400,000 civilians have fled Mogadishu since February, according to UN and other aid agencies. Thousands of civilians are living in terrible conditions in makeshift refugee camps in the outskirts of the capital and in surrounding regions.
Source: Garowe Online