Fighting broke out between government forces and insurgents in Mogadishu, even as a senior Ethiopian official was in a meeting with the Somalian president.

Insurgency has made Somalia unstable [REUTERS]
At least 8 people were killed and many injured in the fighting.

Three civilians were killed when an artillery shell struck the busy Bakara market area of Mogadishu amd witness at the site reported 5 other deaths in the same incident.

President safe

Saturday's clash between the insurgents and the Somalian and Ethiopian forces stationed at the presidential palace, broke out when Abdullahi Yusuf, the Somalian president was being met by Seyoum Mesfin, the Ethiopian foreign affairs minister.

A security staff member posted at the presidential palace said that both the Somalian president and the Ethiopian minister escaped unhurt.

Civilian casualties

Ahmed Abdi, an eyewitness from the Bakara market area, said: "Four men were selling textile products when they were hit by  the shell and all died on the  spot.

Abdinasir Olad, a Bakara trader, said: "A young girl who was hit by shrapnel also died on the spot."

Bahuko Baridye, spokesman for the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia,said: "Several mortars landed in the palace area but there were not any casualties.
 
"It is certain, however, that the  Ethiopian foreign minister was in Mogadishu when the shells landed," said Baridye.

However, Abdi Haji Gobdon, the government spokesman, declined to comment on the attack on the presidential palace.

Said Ahmed Wehliye, a Somalian who lives near near the presidential palace, said he heard the firing of several mortars.

"I am sure four of them hit inside the presidential compound," Wehliye said.

Omar Keynan, a trader at the Bakara market said,"It was a tragic and horrific scene. I saw some people running with their faces covered in blood and some lying in the streets of the market, shouting for help."

Ethiopian troops have been in Mogadishu since December 2006, when they helped Somalia's UN-backed government drive away the Council of Islamic Courts, an Islamic group that had controlled much of southern Somalia and the capital for six months.

Source: Agencies