MOGADISHU, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Up to 17 people including the head of Mogadishu's police, Colonel Ali Said, were killed and dozens of others wounded on Wednesday in the fighting in Mogadishu, capital of Somalia between the Somali government forces and Islamist insurgent fighters, officials and witnesses said.
The bodies of five people killed by a stray shell near the frontline between Somali government forces and Islamist opposition fighters, lie on a street in the Somali capital Mogadishu on June 17, 2009. Sixteen people, mainly civilians, were killed in the crossfire as Somali government forces launched an early morning assault on insurgent bases in the south of Mogadishu. (Xinhua/Abdurrahman Warsameh)
"The Mogadishu Police Commander Colonel Ali Said was among the dead, may Allah have mercy on his soul," Somali Police spokesman Colonel Abdulahi Hassan Barise told reporters in Mogadishu.
The fighting broke out in the early hours of the morning following a concerted attack by the Somali government forces on bases of Islamist rebels in the south of Mogadishu where both the Somali government and insurgent fighters claim to have achieved some victories.
"Six young men ducking in a corner near the KPP junction died after a shell hit on a wall near them," an eyewitness Ismail Hussein told Xinhua. "Many more were also wounded by the stray shell that came from the nearby fighting area".
Ambulances services reported that nearly 10 more dead people, mostly civilians, were caught in the crossfire while health authorities also said that "dozens" of injured civilians were admitted by local ambulances services to both Medina and Daynile hospitals in Mogadishu.
The fighting which has died down following more than five hours on constant clashes between the two sides was described as the worst in many weeks since the start of the Mogadishu confrontations in May.
"The fighting was intense and both sides were firing heavy machine guns and artillery at each other," said Yusuf Ali, a resident in the south of Mogadishu.
More than two hundred people are known to have been killed while nearly five hundred others wounded since the start of the fighting in May. Thousands have been forced from their homes as a result of the renewed fighting for the control of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
Somalia has been without an effective central government since the overthrow of the late Somali ruler Mohamed Siyad Barre in 1991.