MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) – Insurgents and government-allied forces battled with machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades Saturday in the heaviest fighting to hit Somalia’s capital for months, leaving at least seven people dead and dozens others wounded, witnesses and health officials said.

Islamic fighters briefly occupied a police station in south Mogadishu, before heading back out of the area, chanting “God is great,” witnesses said. Witnesses said at least seven people including a woman had died in the heavy fighting between insurgents, government troops and government-allied Ethiopian forces.

At least 35 people wounded in the fighting were being treated at Mogadishu’s Medina Hospital, said Tahir Mohammed Mahmoud, an administrative assistant. He said it was the worst fighting, and heaviest day for hospital admissions, for at least four months in the war-scarred city.

Another witness to the fighting, Hassan Hussein, said he saw two dead Ethiopian troops. Ethiopian officials were not immediately available for confirmation.

On the political front, Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi was in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, for consultations.

He has been locked in a power struggle for months with President Abdullahi Yusuf, who wants to push through a no-confidence vote this week and form a new government – presumably without Gedi. On Friday, Gedi told local media that he was not planning to resign, contrary to widespread speculation.

Twenty-two ministers and deputy ministers have threatened to resign unless the no-confidence vote is held, exposing deep rifts in the administration largely along politicians clan lines.

Analysts say the Ethiopian government primarily wants stability in Somalia so it can withdraw its troops, who still patrol Mogadishu and other parts of the country.

It is unclear which of the two leaders it backs.

Mogadishu has been plagued by fighting since government troops and their Ethiopian allies chased out the Council of Islamic Courts in December. For six months, the Islamic group controlled much of southern Somalia, and remnants have vowed to fight an Iraq-style insurgency. Thousands of civilians have been killed in the fighting this year.

Some 1.5 million Somalis are now in need of food and protection – 50 percent more that at the start of the year – due to inadequate rains, continuing internal displacement and a potential cholera epidemic, the U.N. says.


Associated Press Writer Mohammed Sheikh Nor contributed to this report.

AP-ES-10-27-07 1120EDT

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