March 16 (Bloomberg) -- At least 19 people died in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, in clashes between African Union peacekeepers and fighters from the rebel al-Shabaab militia, the head of the city’s ambulance service said.Fighting erupted after al-Shabaab attacked bases occupied by government and African Union forces late yesterday, said Major Barigye Ba-Hoku, spokesman for the peacekeeping mission.
“There were attacks by extremists in the middle of last night, but there were not any casualties from our side,” he said in a phone interview from the city.Fighters from groups including al-Shabaab, the rebel militia that the U.S. accuses of having links to al-Qaeda, have been battling Somalia’s Western-backed government for the past three years. Most of southern and central Somalia has been seized by the rebels, while President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s government controls only parts of Mogadishu, backed by AU peacekeepers.
The African Union mission has about 8,000 soldiers, mainly from Uganda and Burundi, in Somalia. Sheikh Abdiaziz Abu Mus’ab, a spokesman for al-Shabaab, said Ethiopian forces were also involved in the latest fighting.“The Burundian, Ugandan and Ethiopian troops have waged attacks against Mujahedeen bases but they have failed,” Mus’ab said in a phone interview. “We are attacking their bases and we have punished both the apostate government troops and the mercenary African soldiers.”Those killed in the clashes included a pregnant woman and children, said Ali Muse Sheikh, head of Mogadishu ambulance services.“Among the dead people are a father, mother and two children while the remaining two children of the six-member family sustained critical injures,” he said.Somalia hasn’t had a functioning central administration since the ouster of Mohamed Siad Barre Central government on somalia in 1991.