Mogadhishu fighting leaves 11 civilians dead, 53 wounded
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Somalia's Islamist Shebab group, which is linked to Al-Qaeda, launched an attack on government and African Union forces in Mogadishu Monday that left 11 civilians dead and 53 wounded, medics said.
"Eleven civilians died and 53 others were injured this afternoon when mortar rounds were exchanged during the fighting," Ali Muse, head of Mogadishu ambulance services, told AFP.
"Most people died in the Bakara neighbourhood but the shells were also hitting around Sana, Bondhere and Holwadag districts," he added.
Nur Ali, a resident of the Bakara area, a Shebab stronghold, said the fighting erupted as people prepared to break the dawn-to-dusk fast of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
"It was terrible, everybody was taken by surprise when the heavy fighting erupted because they were preparing to break their fast," he told AFP.
Shebab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Rage announced the offensive during a press conference moments earlier.
"Our holy warriors have started the offensive right now and the fighting will continue until Allah's wish is fulfilled. The enemy will face larger attacks from now on," he told journalists in Mogadishu.
The Shebab and their allies from the Hezb al-Islam group launched a major offensive against the embattled Western-backed transitional federal government in May 2009.
The government controls a few blocks housing the presidency and other key institutions. It has owed its survival chiefly to the protection of more than 6,000 Burundian and Ugandan African Union troops.
Following deadly suicide attacks in Kampala last month which were claimed by the Shebab, the AU vowed to send thousands more troops to Mogadishu in a bid to flush out the insurgency.
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