Page last updated at 09:42 GMT, Sunday, 8 June 2008 10:42 UK

Deadly clashes hit Somali market

Somalia map

At least 11 people have died in heavy artillery clashes between Islamist rebels and Ethiopian and Somali forces in Mogadishu, witnesses say.

Several mortar rounds hit the area around the Baraka market in the centre of the Somali capital, residents said.

Reports suggested the two sides pounded each other after the forces allied to the interim government launched a raid in the area.

Local shopkeepers said at least six of the dead were civilians.

"Ethiopian and government soldiers wanted to raid Bakara this morning but the insurgents confronted them, firing rockets," shopkeeper Ali Osman told Reuters news agency.

"The troops responded by pounding the market with mortar shells... one blast killed nine people, including two children and four women, in the market."

The market has been the scene of many clashes in recent months. Government officials say it is a rebel stronghold.

A Somali government security official confirmed to French news agency AFP that fighting had taken place on Sunday, but did not give a death toll.

According to Reuters, residents say at least 28 people have been killed in the capital in clashes in the last three days,

Somalia has been without a central government for more than 17 years.

For the past 17 months, the Ethiopian-backed interim government has been struggling to exert its control over the country.

Since the Ethiopians helped oust the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) in December 2006, Islamist fighters have used guerrilla warfare to target government installations, Ethiopian and AU troops in the capital.

UN-backed peace talks in Dijbouti made little progress last week, with Islamist factions demanding a timetable for Ethiopian troops to withdraw before they will participate in meaningful talks.

The country has been devastated by conflict since 1991 when the former President Mohammed Siad Barre was ousted.

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