Eight killed in Somalia violence

Mortars slammed into a residential area of the Somali capital overnight, killing eight people — including a pregnant woman — and wounding more than 20, witnesses said Thursday.The mortars were launched after a 30-minute gunbattle pitting insurgents against Ethiopian troops who are protecting Somalia’s fragile government. As in other battles in Mogadishu, civilians were caught in the crossfire.

 “A mother and two of her daughters were killed, the father was screaming for a help as three of his family members died before his eyes,” said Mohamed Deeq, who saw two mortars land on his neighbour’s house.

A pregnant woman also was among the dead, said Hassan Madobe, another witness. Increasingly, the capital at least seems seized by the Iraq-style guerrilla war Islamic militants vowed to wage when they were toppled in December by Ethiopian troops supporting Somalia’s fragile government.

The government was formed in 2004 with the help of the United Nations, but has struggled to assert any real control. Yusuf Osman Hussein, a police spokesman, blamed remnants of the Islamic movement for the attacks.

On Wednesday, a senior United Nations official made an unannounced visit to the capital and said the unrelenting violence is stopping thousands of people who have fled Mogadishu from returning home. Eric Laroche, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, said some Somalis who are living in squalid camps on the city’s outskirts want to stay put until the violence ends. Fighting in March and April forced about a fifth of Mogadishu’s two million residents to flee for safety, and only about 125,000 have returned, the UN said last month.

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