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Deadly Mogadishu clashes erupt after insurgents fire on presidential plane

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-10-22

A fierce battle in Mogadishu on Thursday killed at least 21 civilians and wounded dozens after insurgents fired on the Somali president's plane, prompting an artillery response from peacekeepers.

At least 21 civilians were killed and dozens injured in clashes between insurgents and African Union peacekeepers in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Thursday after insurgents fired on the Somali president's plane.

Clashes erupted after Islamist insurgents launched volleys of mortar bombs toward Mogadishu's airport as President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was leaving for Uganda to attend an African Union summit on refugees and internally displaced people.

The African Union's peacekeeping mission AMISOM, based at the airport, retaliated with heavy artillery and struck insurgent strongholds across Mogadihu.

The  plane carrying the Somali leader took off safely, Somali and AU officials said.

Worst recent incident

Medical sources later said that four of those wounded later died of their injuries, bringing the death toll to 21.

"I can say this was the worst such incident recently in Mogadishu. Heavy shelling was hitting civilian populated areas, including Bakara market, Holwadag and Hodan," Ali Muse, head of the Somali capital's ambulance services, told reporters.
  
The surge in violence comes as al Shabaab insurgents, allegedly backed by al Qaeda, entered an alliance with the more political Hezb al-Islam to launch a joint countrywide military offensive in May to topple Sharif.

Al Shabaab controls a large part of Somalia, leaving President Sharif's UN-backed government with authority over only limited parts of Mogadishu.

Sharif was one of the leaders of the opposition to Ethiopia's two-year occupation of Somalia, which ended in January. He eventually joined a UN-sponsored reconciliation process and was elected president.

The conflict, which broke out in 1991 after the fall of President Mohammed Siad Barre, has left thousands dead and displaced close to 1.5 million people.

Date created : 2009-10-22

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