Heavily armed Islamist fighters have attacked the presidential palace and key installations in the Somali government's Baidoa headquarters, killing at least four soldiers, officials said on Tuesday.
Witnesses said mortar bombs fired by the insurgents late on Monday also hit the airport and a large refurbished warehouse that serves as the parliament of the Western-backed interim administration.
"Several mortar shells landed on us, killing three troops," Ibrahim Ali Isak, a guard at Baidoa's high-walled presidential palace, said by telephone.
Seven of his colleagues were injured and taken to hospital, where medical sources said one of them died.
The attack was carried out by fighters of the al-Shabaab.
A spokesman for the fighters, Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, told Reuters their target was the presidential guards and Ethiopian forces attacking for the interim government.
Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein told reporters in Addis Ababa on Monday that the international community must deploy U.N. peacekeepers in his country without delay..
The al-Shabaab is the armed wing of an Islamist group ousted by the government and Ethiopians at the start of last year. Along with other opposition leaders, it has criticised the Djibouti deal.
The latest high profile victim was Osman Ali Ahmed, local country director of the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP), who was killed by unidentified gunmen in Mogadishu on Sunday.
Robow told Reuters al-Shabaab fighters were not to blame.
"We strongly condemn the killing of important people in our community and declare that we are not behind it," he said. "We believe Ethiopian troops and the government are behind it."
Government officials and the Ethiopian military could not immediately be reached for comment.
Last Mod: 08 Temmuz 2008, 13:43