Heavy fighting in Mogadishu kills at least six

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MOGADISHU, Oct 27 (Reuters) Heavy fighting today killed at least six people in Mogadishu as Ethiopian troops clashed with Islamist-led insurgents in the worst battles for weeks.

Residents said the violence began before dawn in the heart of the Somali capital, where an interim government backed by Ethiopia and Western nations is struggling to exert authority.

''I can see four dead men lying in the street from my balcony,'' resident Ismail Osman, told Reuters by telephone.

''Ethiopian troops and insurgents are fighting in every alley.'' Another terrified resident, Fatuma Ali, said there were two dead men and four injured in the dusty road outside her home.

''No one can carry them away, because anyone who comes out of his house is shot dead,'' she said.

Somalia's fragile government has faced an Iraq-style insurgency of roadside bombings, assassinations and suicide attacks since it routed a hardline Islamist movement in January with the help of Ethiopia's military.

But today's sustained clashes with the rebels were the heaviest for weeks. Many residents were wounded by stray bullets and shrapnel from artillery strikes.

''We have received 21 wounded persons, including policemen and civilians,'' Dahir Mohamed Dhere, a manager at Mogadishu's chaotic main Madina Hospital, told Reuters.

''The number is increasing minute after minute ... you can see how most of them are very serious cases.'' The latest fighting comes as political divisions between Somalia's president and prime minister threaten to split the fledgling administration -- the 14th attempt to forge central rule in the turbulent Horn of Africa state.

President Abdullahi Yusuf and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi have feuded almost from the moment they came to power in late 2004 after peace talks in Kenya.

But their rift widened earlier this year as the two men backed different concerns hoping to exploit their country's potential oil resources.

REUTERS SG KP1547

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