A string of attacks killed at least 13 people around southern Somalia, where government troops and their Ethiopian allies are battling Islamist insurgents, witnesses and officials said Tuesday.
The area has seen little peace since December, when the Ethiopian troops supporting Somalia's fragile government drove out a radical Islamic group that had seized control. The defeated insurgents vowed to wage an Iraq-style guerrilla war until the country becomes an Islamic state.
Roadside bombs, attacks on government installations, assassination attempts and gunbattles have become common. Civilians often are caught in the crossfire, and hundreds of thousands of people have fled the capital.
About 40 heavily armed insurgents drove up to government buildings in Mogadishu late Monday and attacked with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, said Omar Haji, who lives near one of the government bases that came under attack.
"I woke up to the noise of vehicles and men shouting "God is Great!" I peeped from my rooftop and saw about 40 men armed with heavy machine-guns and RPGs, who arrived in five vehicles and started immediately firing at government bases," he said.
Two men and a 4-year-old child were killed in the hour-long battle, said Abdi Mo'alin Mohamed, a clan elder.
Dr. Dahir Dhere of Medina Hospital said a soldier died of his wounds and a wounded civilian was being treated.
Islamist group blamed
Deputy Defense Minister Salad Ali Jelle said the remnants of the Islamist group, known as the Council of Islamic Courts, and allied insurgents were responsible for the attack.
"Terrorists of the remnants of the courts and insurgents, who are not happy with any kind of administration in Somalia, are always behind such attacks," said Jelle.
In the central town of Belet Weyne, two children and their father were killed when Ethiopian troops fired artillery shells into a residential area after a land mine exploded near their convoy, witnesses said. A 60-year-old man died of shock when a shell ripped through his house, said Abdi Adow, a neighbor. Three other people were wounded in the attack, he said.
Salad Aden Indhagir, a minibus driver, said he saw three Ethiopian soldiers lying on the ground after the mine exploded, but he did not know if they were dead.
Hours later, another land mine exploded near a bus in southern Mogadishu, killing five on board and wounding three others.
"A government vehicle passed by and the explosion hit my public bus, killing five passengers, including a woman," said driver Ahmed Ali.