Clashes leave 12 dead in Mogadishu
Somali government troops clash with al-Shabab fighters in Mogadishu. (file photo)
At least 12 civilians have been killed during clashes between Somali government troops backed by African Union forces and al-Shabab fighters in Mogadishu.
The civilians, among them women and children, were killed on Saturday after the fighting broke out in Mogadishu's northern districts of Bondhere and Dayniile as well as the southern district of Hodan, the Press TV correspondent in Mogadishu reported.
More than 67 people were also wounded when Somali soldiers and al-Shabab fighters exchanged heavy gunfire, and barrages of mortar shells were fired.
Al-Shabab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rageh claimed that at least 20 government troops were killed after both sides engaged in bloody skirmishes.
However, Somali police spokesman Col. Abdulahi Hassan Barise rejected the claim, saying that government forces have captured nine under-age children, who were recruited by the al-Shabab group and forced to fight for them in the frontline.
Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, when warlords overthrew former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
Over the past two decades, up to one million people have lost their lives in the fighting between rival factions and due to famine and disease.
There are more than 1.4 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Somalia, and over 300,000 IDPs are sheltering in Mogadishu alone.
Most of the displaced live in poor and degrading conditions on makeshift sites in southern and central Somalia, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.