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Deadly Somali raid on peace force

27 May 08 10:58 GMT

At least 13 people, mainly civilians, have died in an attack by Islamist insurgents on an African Union (AU) base in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

AU mission spokesman Baridgye Bahuko said two insurgents were among those killed during the fierce battle.

The UN and aid agencies say some 6,000 civilians have died during clashes in Mogadishu in the past year.

So far only 2,400 AU peacekeepers have been sent to Somalia, of a planned 8,000-strong force.

Ethiopian troops are also in Somalia supporting the transitional government.

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.

Al-Shabab, the militant wing of the UIC, has claimed responsibility for Monday's daring attack on the AU base.

Correspondents say at least 11 civilians died during the battle most of them were hit by stray bullets and mortars that landed on their homes.

A alliance of opposition groups based in Eritrea - which includes the Islamists - has refused to have face-to-face talks with the government until there is an agreed timetable for Ethiopian troops to leave Somalia.

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

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