(CNN) -- At least 27 people, including nine Ethiopian soldiers and seven Islamic militants, were killed Saturday in fierce fighting in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu, according to eyewitnesses and hospital officials.
A Somali government soldier walks the streets of Mogadishu recently. New violence broke out Saturday.
The fighting began Saturday morning with heavy gunfire and a barrage of artillery that wreaked havoc in neighborhoods even a few kilometers away.
"Ethiopian soldiers walking in numbers have spread into our neighborhood of Towfiq this morning, and that has sparked deadly clashes between them and the insurgents," resident Muna Abdi Ibrahim said from Mogadishu.
He said it appeared that the militants had ambushed the soldiers, who entered the area on foot.
"The Ethiopians came to the village very quietly ... no resistance at all, but suddenly the sound of gunfire erupted, sending [us] beneath our beds for fear," he said.
Ethiopia's army invaded Somalia in December 2006 and deposed an Islamic government. Ethiopian troops have remained to support a transitional secular government as it battles Islamic insurgents.
Abdi Rahim Isa Adow, a spokesman for the Islamic insurgents, confirmed that seven militants had been killed but said that "a large number of Ethiopian soldiers" had also been killed.
Among the dead were 11 civilians, five of whom were killed at a tea bar in the northern part of the city by an artillery strike.
At least eight civilians were admitted to Mogadishu's Madina Hospital, spokesman Dahir Dhere said. Of those, two died of their wounds.
Abdulle Muse, 52, who keeps grazing land near Barakat cemetery in northeast Mogadishu, site of another Saturday clash, said he saw at least six dead Ethiopian soldiers taken away by their comrades. A woman in another neighborhood said she saw the bodies of three Ethiopian soldiers surrounded by jubilant militants.
The fighting prompted city officials to close public transportation at an industrial road running through three neighborhoods where the clashes took place. E-mail to a friend