Page last updated at 15:55 GMT, Monday, 21 December 2009

Mortar attack as Somalia MPs return to Mogadishu


At least eight people have died in a day of violence in Somalia which saw mortars fired at MPs meeting for the first time since August.

No MPs were killed in the attack but witnesses say three civilians died as government forces retaliated and shells hit a radio station.

A separate roadside bomb killed at least five people, officials say.

Hard-line Islamist groups are battling Somalia's UN-backed government, which controls only a few parts of Mogadishu.

The BBC's Mohamed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu says the mortar attack spread fear among MPs.

But he says the parliament is a concrete building protected by African Union tanks and hundreds of government troops - so the MPs were not in as much danger as people outside the compound.

Eyewitnesses said three shells hit a local radio station, killing the station director's wife and two other people.

At least 17 people were injured by the mortars.

Earlier in the day a roadside bomb targeted the car of a government minister, who had defected from the insurgency. The minister was not in the car at the time, but five other people were killed.

The day of violence comes weeks after a suicide bomber killed three ministers at a ceremony for newly graduated doctors.

Rebels from the al-Shabab group have denied carrying out that attack but have been behind other suicide attacks on government targets.

They are accused of links to al-Qaeda.

Somalia has not had a functioning national government since 1991.

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