The Islamic courts fighters were forced into the south of the country by Somali government forces and the Ethiopian army.

"Mortars have hit the sea port, near the presidential palace. Most of the mortars hit residential houses. It is only civilians who were affected. These people have lost any support by this terrible act tonight," the source said.

A local journalist told the Associated Press news agency that the mortars had hit an Ethiopian military base, a hotel and the capital's seaport.

Protest

The attacks came after a protest against the deployment of foreign peacekeepers by hundreds of supporters of the Islamic courts.

Your Views

"Somalia will not be stabilise as long as Ethiopian troops stay inside the country. Somali people will fight against invaders until they leave their soil."

janaq_abdi, Nashville TN, USA

Send us your views

The protesters chanted anti-government slogans and burned tyres in northern Mogadishu.

Ethiopian soldiers have frequently been the targets of violence since they helped force out the Islamic courts who have vowed to carry out a guerrilla war.

Addis Ababa says its mission in Somalia is complete and it wants the first African Union peacekeeping units to deploy by mid-February so their forces can withdraw.

But an AU summit ended on Wednesday with a proposed force for Somalia still lacking firm commitments for thousands of troops.

In a separate development, an Islamic courts leader who was detained in Kenya was reportedly released on Thursday and is now heading to Yemen.

Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, seen by Washington as a potential key to reconciliation in post-war Somalia, surrendered to Kenyan authorities on the border with Somalia about 10 days ago.

He met Michael Ranneberger, the US ambassador to Kenya who has responsibility for Somalia, during his time in Nairobi.

Several Islamic courts leaders have taken refuge in Yemen since the movement's defeat.

Source: Agencies