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Mortar hits Somalia pres. palace, kills 4 Ugandans

A mortar fired by al-Qaida-linked insurgents slammed into Somalia's presidential palace on Monday, killing four Ugandan peacekeepers as clashes between militants and pro-government forces entered a second week.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A mortar fired by al-Qaida-linked insurgents slammed into Somalia's presidential palace on Monday, killing four Ugandan peacekeepers as clashes between militants and pro-government forces entered a second week.

The mortar, which also wounded eight people, did not land near the president's house, said a spokesman for the African Union, Maj. Barigye Bahoku, who confirmed the deaths of the four Ugandans.

"The presidential palace is a huge compound and the mortar landed near our soldiers' base," he said. "It did not affect any other place."

The strike against the palace comes a week after al-Shabab militants stormed a hotel near the presidential palace and killed 32 people, including four parliamentarians.

Mogadishu has seen eight straight days of battles, fighting that started after al-Shabab's spokesman threatened a new "massive" war against Somalia and African Union troops. Al-Shabab, which controls much of central and southern Somalia, is trying to overthrow the weak, U.N.-backed Somali government and install a harsh brand of Islam across the country.

Monday's fighting also killed six civilians, including three women who died when a mortar crashed into the women's section of the busy Bakara market, said Ali Muse, the head of the city's ambulance service.

More than 70 civilians have been killed and at least 230 others wounded since the latest fighting began Aug. 23, said Muse.

Amid the increased warfare, Somalia's government appealed for more help in its fight against the militants.

President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed said it was unrealistic to expect the forces of an ill-equipped government "to contain the evil al-Qaida-al-Shabab alliance." He said the militants aimed to destabilize the region and beyond.

The president compared last week's hotel attack to violence in Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan and renewed his pledge for international support.

"The Somali government has neither similar support nor nearly as much resources as those countries have. Yet it's facing similar, if not more potent enemy," he said.

Al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaida and boasts veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars among its ranks, has grown deadlier in recent months. Last month, it claimed twin bombings in Uganda during the World Cup final, killing 76 people.

Somalia's fragile, U.N.-backed government has struggled for years to gain relevancy, but corruption and its minuscule footprint in the country — just a few city blocks near the seaside airport and the airport itself — have limited its effectiveness.

Somalia has not had an effective government for 19 years, allowing piracy to flourish off its coast.