By VOA News – 16 October 2008 –Heavy fighting has broken out in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, leaving at least 18 people dead, many of them civilians.
The fighting began when insurgents attacked African Union and Ethiopian troops Thursday, drawing retaliatory fire. During the battle, heavy artillery hit the populous Bakara Market.
The fighting also drew in forces from the transitional Somali government. The government is backed by Ethiopia, which is believed to have more than 10,000 troops in the country.
Thursday, Ethiopia’s prime minister dismissed opposition calls for a timetable to withdraw his country’s troops from Somalia.
Addressing parliament, Meles Zenawi, said troops would remain in Somalia until a credible international force can take over and Somalia’s stability is assured.
Ethiopian troops entered Somalia in 2006 to help the government oust an Islamist movement that had seized power throughout much of the country.
U.N.-backed reconciliation talks between the Somali government and some of its opponents have achieved little, while a bloody Islamist insurgency rages on.
In New York Tuesday, a U.N. official said the Somali government and opposition groups would meet for a third round of talks October 25-26 in Djibouti.
The official, Amadou Oul Abdallah, also said the U.N. and World Bank are planning a donor conference to assist Somalia, where millions are in need of aid because of fighting and drought. He said a preliminary meeting for the conference will take place Monday in Stockholm.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP.