Shelling kills 24 in Mogadishu

Heavy shelling pounded Somalia's capital Mogadishu yesterday, killing at least 24 people and wounding dozens, in an attack by al-Qa'ida-linked al-Shabaab fighters and Hizbul Islam.

Speaker Sheikh Aden Madobe told reporters he had asked the country's president to form a new government after a parliamentary vote of no confidence.

However, Somalia's Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke said his Western-backed government would continue its work.

"My government serves the Somali people and will continue in its dedicated efforts to unify and pacify Somalia," Sharmarke told reporters.

Parliament met on Sunday for the first time since December as al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab fighters fired mortars at the parliament building. African Union peacekeepers returned fire.

Parliamentary business has been paralysed this year, with many legislators living in Kenya, Europe and America because of security fears in the war-riven country. The chamber has also been split by a bitter feud over the duration of Madobe's term in office and his competence.

"280 voted against the government, 30 in favour and eight remained silent. Therefore we will request President Sheikh Sharif to form a government urgently," Madobe told Reuters by telephone.

A member of the parliament secretariat who did not want to be identified confirmed the vote's outcome.

But other lawmakers denied that a vote of confidence in the government had taken place and said legislators had in fact voted to sack the speaker in chaotic scenes.

"I ask anyone who wants to be the next speaker to bring their CV (curriculum vitae) and application," said Haji Shugri, the chamber's most senior lawmaker.

Analysts were swift to question Madobe's call for a new government, arguing that it was likely a ploy to cling onto his position, one of the most powerful in Somali politics and some warned the political infighting looked set to intensify.