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Page last updated at 18:25 GMT, Sunday, 16 May 2010 19:25 UK

Somali rebels fire mortar bombs at MPs' rare meeting

A wounded civilian in Mogadishu on 16 May 2010
Rebels fired mortars from a market and AU peacekeepers shelled back

Islamist rebels attacked Somalia's parliament as it met for the first time this year, in clashes which led to the deaths of at least 11 people.

Insurgents fired mortar bombs at the building in Mogadishu, triggering retaliatory shellfire from African Union peacekeepers.

There were rowdy scenes in the chamber earlier as members voted to remove the speaker, who had criticised the PM.

The rebels have fought a three-year war against the fragile interim government.

They launched Sunday's attack from their stronghold in the capital's main market at Bakara.

'Treason'

A police official told news agency Reuters that some mortars had landed near the parliament, but there had been no direct hits.

Two Somali MPs row in parliament in Mogadishu on 16 May 2010
Meanwhile, a bitter feud over the parliament's speaker boiled over

More than 20 people were injured in the crossfire as AU soldiers guarding MPs fired back with artillery.

Parts of Bakara market caught fire and several shopkeepers were killed, according to reports.

Shortly beforehand, the parliamentary speaker, Sheikh Adan Madobe, urged Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed to appoint a new prime minister.

MPs voted to sack the speaker and Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke later accused him of treason.

Many Somali MPs live abroad because of safety fears; the chamber last convened in December.

The Horn of Africa nation has not had a functioning central government since 1991.



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