Insurgents attack Mogadishu slum, 2 civilians killed

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MOGADISHU, Sep 19 (Reuters) Heavy fighting between insurgents and Somali government troops around Mogadishu's Bakara market overnight killed at least two civilians, a witness said today.

In the worst violence since the formation of a new opposition alliance, suspected insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic gunfire into the Mogadishu slum at the centre of the city near where government troops are garrisoned.

''The gun-battle was going on for at least 40 minutes and the troops continued firing for 20 minutes after the fighting,'' one local resident said, who asked not to be named.

The resident said at least two civilians were killed.

Deputy police spokesman Adulahi Omar Ibrahim told Reuters the attackers were eventually beaten back.

''Five insurgents fired two rockets at the government position and then they fired automatic gunfire,'' he said. ''Backup troops arrived and the insurgents were chased away.'' President Abdullahi Yusuf's interim government has faced a bloody insurgency, led by Islamist fighters, after routing the Islamic Courts movement at the end of 2006 with the help of thousands of Ethiopian troops.

Several Islamist leaders, and other Somali opposition figures, formed a new umbrella ''liberation'' organisation last week in Eritrea, vowing war on the Ethiopian troops.

It was not clear how the new Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia planned to coordinate with insurgents on the street, but analysts said its formation was sure to give them a boost.

Meanwhile, independent media house Shabelle remained off the air today after government troops surrounded and fired on its Mogadishu office in an attack apparently motivated by suspicions that journalists there were supporting the insurgents.

The journalists denied that.

REUTERS SG KP1427

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