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Somalia attacks make mosque, market 'human butcher houses'

  • Story Highlights
  • At least 11 civilians killed in fighting, attacks in Mogadishu
  • Some killed preparing for prayers at the Abu Hureyra mosque
  • Market vendors fled for their lives during barrage of shelling
  • Islamic insurgents fighting Somali and Ethiopian soldiers for control
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MOGADISHU, Somalia (CNN) -- Heavy shelling struck Somalia's capital city on Thursday, leaving pools of blood around a neighborhood mosque, a devastated market and 11 civilians dead, according to witnesses and a local journalist.

A young boy looks at mortar damage to his house in the Bakaraha market area of Mogadishu on Thursday.

Many of the dead were preparing for prayers at the Abu Hureyra mosque, which was packed with worshippers, according to Sheikh Abdullahi Omar, whose leg was wounded by shrapnel.

"Body parts of the worshippers are scattered all over," he said.

Local photojournalist Hassan Ahmed Haji rushed to the the mosque after the apparent mortar shell blast and saw six bodies. He said it was a frightening scene.

Mogadishu'smain market also came under attack, as vendors fled for their lives amid a continuous barrage of shelling that left five dead, witnesses told Haji.

"Bakaraha market has turned into a human butcher house today," said Hawa Hamud Abdi, a meat trader who survived the attack. She said a mother and child were among those killed. She spoke as mortar shells and artillery fire rained down on the market.

Clashes between Islamic insurgents and Somali and Ethiopian soldiers also raged around Suuqa Holaha, a neighborhood in northeast Mogadishu. Fighting also continued in Folarensa junction, an intersection near the presidential palace.

Wounded civilians are pouring into Mogadishu's Madina Hospital, which is already struggling to cope with other war-wounded patients, a nurse said.

The latest fighting comes after a major United Nations-brokered peace deal was signed in the neighboring country of Djibouti by Somalia's transitional government and an alliance of armed opposition forces.

Somalia has been mired in chaos since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and sparked brutal clan infighting. Somalia's transitional government is trying to maintain control of the capital, with the help of the better-equipped Ethiopian forces.

The lawlessness has extended to the country's waters, where three international vessels were hijacked by suspected Somali pirates who are demanding "large ransoms," an International Maritime Bureau official told CNN.

Ethiopia invaded Somalia in December 2006 to install the transitional government in Mogadishu after a decade and a half of near-anarchy. The invasion had the blessing of the United States, which accused Islamists of harboring fugitives from the al Qaeda terrorist movement.

But the Ethiopian troops quickly became embroiled in an insurgency led by the Islamists. And as guerrilla attacks mounted, efforts to replace the Ethiopians with an African Union-led peacekeeping mission faltered.

The conflict displaced hundreds of thousands of Somalis, further worsening a humanitarian crisis that dates back to the collapse of the country's last government in 1991.

The situation has been exacerbated by drought, continual armed conflicts in central and southern Somalia, and high inflation on food and fuel prices.

The peace agreement, signed on June 9 in Djibouti, calls for a cease-fire between Somalia's U.N.-backed transitional government and the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia. If followed, it would pave the way for a withdrawal of Ethiopian troops.

The agreement calls on the Alliance to disassociate itself from any armed groups still fighting the government and for all sides to allow "unhindered humanitarian access and assistance" to all Somalis. A joint committee led by U.N. officials will monitor the agreement's implementation.

From Journalist Mohamed Adow Amiin.

All About MogadishuEthiopiaMohamed Siad BarreUnited Nations

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