somaliAt least 13 people were killed and scores wounded in the Somali capital on Tuesday as Islamist rebels battled police and African Union peacekeepers throughout the day.

Witnesses said battles that began mid-morning were still going on at dusk. Both sides fired heavy machine guns and artillery and the insurgents unleashed volleys of mortar bombs at the hill-top Villa Somalia presidential palace.

It was the worst fighting in weeks in Mogadishu.

Representatives of the government and various Islamist factions engaged in the fighting refused to comment. Workers at the city’s main hospital said dozens of wounded were admitted.

Residents put the death toll at 13 while local Shabelle Media reported 15 people had been killed. As usual in Mogadishu, the vast majority of those hurt were civilians.

“A mother and her baby died after a shell landed on their house,” said local man Abdirizak Mohamed. “Their flesh was so mangled we did not know what to carry.”

More than 16,000 civilians have been killed in the two-year-old insurgency, one million people have been driven from their homes, more than a third of the population depend on aid, and large parts of Mogadishu lie empty and destroyed.

The latest violence broke out after hardline Islamists al Shabaab said they would mount more attacks on the AU troops after killing at least 11 Burundian soldiers on Sunday.



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