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Ten die as insurgents shell presidential residence in Mogadishu

TEN people were killed and several others were wounded after mortar shells fired by insurgent fighters missed the Presidential Place in Mogadishu, officials and witnesses said.

Somali military spokesman Farhan Mahad said none of the shells landed in the Presidential Place, but hit areas far from the Somali President's residence where residents said seven people were killed.

"The shells hit a small restaurant behind Villa Somalia (the Presidential Palace) and seven people having dinner died and many others were wounded," Mohamed Ahmed, a resident, told Xinhua.

Ambulance services in Mogadishu confirmed the death toll adding that three other people wounded in the Wardigley district also died on arrival at the hospital.

Somali government forces have been battling insurgent fighters from the hardline Islamist Al-Shabaab movement and Hezbul Islam (Islamic Party) who have vowed to topple Somali government.

Separately, government forces yesterday fanned around the Medina district in the south of Mogadishu where the city's major airport locates.

The forces were reportedly seen taking positions around the area after they received information that insurgents were planning to attack the airport following the government's imposition of air and sea blockade in insurgent-held south Somalia sea and air ports.

Meanwhile, in the Middle Shabelle Region in central Somalia where insurgent fighters have recently captured two main towns, reports say heavy fighting have broken out between pro-government Union of Islamic Courts forces and insurgent fighters from Al-Shabaab and Hezbul Islam.

The fighting is said to be continuing near the Mahaday district of which forces of Hezbul Islam faction took control last week.

In other news, the firebrand Islamist leader sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys have taken over leadership of the Hezbul Islam, a coalition of groups including his own, from the outgoing leader Omar Iman Abu Bakar who said he will remain "an active member" of the group, whose forces are fighting Somali government soldiers in Mogadishu.

It is not clear what brought about the leadership change of the group but it was apparent the outgoing Hezbul Islam leader was mere figurehead regarding his influential partner Aweys who was accused of trying to overthrow the fledgling government led by his rival Somali President Sheikh Sharif sheikh Ahmed.


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