Fighting rocks Somali capital

Somali government forces attacked insurgent positions in the capital Mogadishu today and at least five people were killed in the fighting, residents said.

Locals said four gunmen from the hardline Islamist al Shabaab rebel group died and that a journalist from local independent Shabelle Radio was also killed.

Reuters reporters in the coastal city said battles began before dawn as troops tried to oust the insurgents. Residents cowered in their homes as both sides swapped heavy weapons fire.

The government says there is little hope of negotiating with Shabaab fighters who it says have no political agenda and include hundreds of foreign extremists in their ranks.

Somalia has been mired in conflict for 18 years. Neighbouring states and Western security forces fear the Horn of Africa state could become a haven for al Qaeda-linked militants.

Scores of people have been killed and tens of thousands of civilians uprooted over the last two weeks in some of the heaviest fighting for months.