Islamist insurgents launched multiple attacks on government bases and African Union peacekeeping troops and at least 19 people, including women and children, were killed in the heaviest fighting in a day seen in Somalia's capital in months.
The battle came two days before President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed marks his first year in power and underscored that his goal of ending violence in a nation shattered by nearly two decades of war remains as elusive as ever.
More than 30 people were wounded in the hours-long fighting, said Ali Muse, the head of the ambulance service in Mogadishu. Residents cowered in their homes, unable to venture out as the warring sides pounded each other with artillery, mortars and machine guns.
Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage, a spokesman for the insurgent al-Shabab group, said the early morning attacks yesterday were aimed at pre-empting an anticipated offensive against the Islamist militia, which controls much of southern regions, most of the capital and some central regions.
Rage said two fighters al-Shabab fighters were killed. Barigye Bahoku, spokesman for the AU peacekeepers, said one of the force's 5,100 soldiers was injured. Muse said women and children were among those killed but didn't know how many.
Somali police spokesman Col Abdullahi Hassan Barise said the insurgent attack was beaten back.
After a lull throughout the day, fighting resumed for about 30 minutes yesterday evening. Gunshots could be heard in the southern part of Mogadishu.