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Four Ugandan peacekeepers killed in fresh clashes

Four Ugandan peacekeepers were killed in Mogadishu on Monday in a mortar attack by al Shabaab rebels. The attack comes as authorities in Somalia called for more international assistance to quell the insurgency.

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AFP - Four Ugandan soldiers with the African Union forces in Somalia were killed Monday when hardline insurgents fired a mortar shell at one of their bases, the force's spokesman said.

The AU troops, protecting Somalia's embattled government which the Islamist Shebab rebels are fighting to overthrow, have been locked in heavy clashes since last week with the radical group who have intensified their attacks.

"A mortar was fired at one of our positions and it killed four soldiers and injured eight," the force's spokesman Ba-Hoku Barigye told AFP.

The AU troops, numbering some 6,000 Ugandan and Burundian soldiers, are the only hurdle between the Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab and a total take-over of the conflict-torn Somali capital.

The latest battles that have seen the Shebab advance to Mogadishu districts under the control of the AU-protected government prompted President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed to appeal Monday for international assistance.

"It is quite impractical to expect Somalia alone to contain the evil Al Qaeda-Al Shabab alliance as Somalia is emerging from 20 years of destruction and chaotic political environment," Sharif said in a statement.

He said his government was not receiving as much international support as is being accorded to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq despite facing near-similar insurgencies.

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

"Since terrorism has become a borderless threat, the Somali government is renewing its plea for urgent international support," Sharif added.

At the weekend, six civilians were killed when the Shebab fighters attacked a government barracks around Sigale in the capital's Hodan neighbourhood.

The attack drew a retaliatory operation from government forces, sparking an intense battle involving gun, mortar and artillery fire.

"Six are confirmed dead and 16 others were wounded on Monday," Ali Muse, the head of Mogadishu's ambulance services, told AFP.

The government claimed it had now secured the area, but a spokesman for the Shebab declared victory, claiming the insurgents had killed more than 10 government forces.

"Our forces have regained control of a key position that was captured by the anti-peace forces for a day," police spokesman Abdullahi Hassan Bariise said.

"They attempted to recapture the position but we defeated them again on Monday," he added.

"The invading Christian forces at the presidential palace tried to deploy reinforcements to their positions... and the mujahideen have attacked them, killing more than ten," Shebab spokesman Sheikh Abdulaziz Abu Musab said.

"We are currently gaining ground in the Mogadishu battle and the claim by the apostate government that it recaptured one of the positions it had lost is not true," he added.

Due to the fighting in Mogadishu, access to some areas was almost impossible Monday and AFP was not able to verify independently who was controlling the disputed Sigale neighbourhood.

More than 80 people have been killed in intense clashes in Mogadishu over the past week.

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