Witnesses say 13 people, including Mogadishu's top police commander, were killed in clashes between the Somali government and insurgents in Mogadishu. The six-week-old power struggle has already killed more than 250.
AFP - Mogadishu's top police commander was among 13 people killed as the six-week-old power struggle between the Somali government and insurgents led to fresh clashes in the capital.
The fighting -- which has already killed more than 250 people -- also claimed the lives of five children, killed by a single mortar shell.
Witnesses said colonel Ali Said Hassan was killed during fierce fighting that broke out in the Mogadishu's southern Hodan district early Wednesday.
"The commander of Mogadishu police died in the line of duty," said a senior police official who asked not to be named.
"He was a brave officer who has expended tremendous effort to bring peace. He was killed by terrorists," he said. "We are all ready to die to bring peace and fight anti-peace local terrorists and their foreign backers."
The pre-dawn combat erupted when government forces attacked positions controlled by Islamist insurgents, a day after a battle left six dead in a northern neighbourhood.
"There was intense fighting when the security forces engaged those trouble-makers this morning," a Somali police commander told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Other police sources said three other members of the police force were killed in the fighting.
Witnesses also said nine civilians, five of them children in a nearby neighbourhood had died in mortar fire.
An AFP reporter saw the bodies of the five children -- aged between nine and 14 years -- lying in pools of blood under a balcony where they had sought shelter from shelling.
"The five children were trying to hide when a mortar shell landed at the same place they were hiding, unfortunately they all died on the spot," said Habibo Adan, a resident very close to the area.
Said Hasan Yusuf another resident: "I saw the dead bodies of four civilians who were killed by a mortar shell near Holwadag district."
At least 50 people were wounded in the renewed violence flare-up.
"We have picked at least 50 civilians who have been injured by the mortars and in cross fire. They include children and women and some of them have serious injuries," said ambulance driver Sheikh Mohammed Ali.
Since insurgent groups launched a major offensive against the administration of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed on May 7, intense fighting has killed more than 250 people, civilians and combatants.
More than 122,000 people have also been displaced, making it "the largest caseload of new displacement in just over one month", according to the United Nation Children's Fund (UNICEF).
The UN refugee agency said renewed armed conflict in Somalia last year took the numbers of people displaced to 1.3 million.
The volatility of the situation in Somalia means the internally displaced are desperately lacking basics including shelter, water and food, according to aid agencies.
"Their dire situation is further exacerbated by the lack of humanitarian agencies' presence," said UNICEF whose largest operation hub in central Jowhar town was overrun and looted by militias a month ago.
"UNICEF is gravely disturbed by the new wave of aggression and hostilities against humanitarian aid work in Somalia which is putting lives of Somali children and women at great risk," Hannan Sulieman, acting head of UNICEF Somalia, said in a statement.
Militants took over the compound in Jowhar, 90 kilometres (55 miles) north of the capital on May 17.
The compound remains occupied by militiamen and inaccessible to aid workers, it added.
Somalia has been in the grip of civil war since the overthrow of president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
Date created : 2009-06-17