4 civilians killed in mortar attack in Somalia

A wounded Somali youth is wheeled away o
A wounded Somali youth is wheeled away on a stretcher on Thursday after he sustained serious injuries from a mortar attack, south of Mogadishu. Stringer / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

Insurgents fired mortars Thursday into three Mogadishu neighborhoods where Ethiopian troops hold strategic positions, killing at least four civilians, witnesses said.

One mortar shell fell near Mogadishu’s Bakara market, killing three civilians and wounding five others, said Abdi Haji Nuur, who owns a shop in the area. Nearby Ethiopian troops returned fire with artillery, witnesses said.

At the seaport, a mortar shell exploded on the beach near where a group of children were swimming, killing one and wounding six, traditional elder Muridi Mayow said as he was taking the children to the hospital. Ethiopian troops are quartered nearby.

“The children were hit as they were swimming,” he said. He said he didn’t know their names, because they were from another part of the city.

Three mortar shells also fell in the Hodan residential district, wounding six people, witnesses said.

The shelling follows two days of calm in Mogadishu, where Ethiopian troops are helping the weak transitional government try to assert its authority in the capital.

An African Union peacekeeping force has been proposed to replace the Ethiopian soldiers, who are widely despised by Mogadishu residents. It was not clear, however, if the peacekeepers would be more welcome. Somalis held weekend demonstrations opposing the AU deployment.

The Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations has claimed responsibility for the attacks on government and Ethiopian forces in Mogadishu. The group demands the immediate withdrawal of Ethiopian forces.

Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one another, throwing the country into anarchy.

A transitional government was formed in 2004 with U.N. help, but has had little authority because it has no real army or police force.