Page last updated at 11:00 GMT, Wednesday, 30 April 2008 12:00 UK

Civilians gunned down in Somalia

Somalis flee Mogadishu
Hundreds of thousands of Somalis have fled violence in the past year

At least 12 civilians have been shot dead by Ethiopian troops in an apparent revenge attack in the town of Baidoa, say eyewitnesses.

Reports say the Ethiopians opened fire indiscriminately in a crowded street. Several other people were wounded.

It followed the deaths of two soldiers who were killed by a roadside bomb.

The Ethiopians intervened in 2006 to help government forces oust Islamists who had taken control of much of southern Somalia.

It is the second lethal bomb attack this week on Ethiopian soldiers in Baidoa, which is the seat of Somalia's interim parliament.

An Ethiopian officer speaking from the capital, Mogadishu, on condition of anonymity, denied his troops had opened fire, saying the blast had been responsible for the deaths.

But eyewitnesses said the troops began firing after the blast.

Baidoa, Somalia

"It was a horrific scene blood has been spilt all over and I saw about 10 bodies lying in the middle of the road" Jamal Haji, a resident in Baidoa told the BBC.

Another witness, Abdurahman Takow, told AFP news agency: "At least 12 people were killed and nine others wounded by fire from Ethiopian soldiers."

Meanwhile, in central Somalia, a regional commander of the transitional government's army was killed in an insurgent attack on his house in the town of Beled Weyne.

The attacks come as diplomats intensified efforts to get the interim government officials and the opposition alliance, which includes the Islamists, to hold talks.

Representatives of the International Contact Group for Somalia led by the US and Norway are meeting in Oslo, where Prime Minister Hassan Nur Hussein and representatives of the Asmara-based alliance are expected.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991 and the UN has warned of a serious humanitarian crisis in the country following a rise in insecurity.

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