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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mortar Bombs in Mogadishu Kill 16, Insurgents Accused

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- Mortar shells hit several parts of Mogadishu before dawn Tuesday, killing at least 16 people in one of the fiercest bombardments since Islamists were chased from Somalia's capital last month.

The hilltop presidential palace, Villa Somalia, and the coastal city's defense headquarters were among the targets hit. "They showered us with rockets and a mortar also hit the compound. Luckily no one was hurt," said a government soldier, who was in Villa.

"Our troops and those from our ally Ethiopia were forced to fire heavy artillery," he said. "We had to retaliate. These elements are being paid to cause all this destruction."

A woman living nearby said several people were wounded in the surrounding streets, and a television cameraman saw five bodies in a western neighborhood also hit by mortar rounds.

At one Mogadishu hospital alone, officials said there were more than 40 wounded, three of whom died of their injuries.

"We have had to send home those with light wounds because we are overwhelmed," said one doctor, who asked not to be named.

A spate of near-daily rocket and mortar strikes has challenged the government's bid to impose security and allow the Ethiopian troops who helped it oust the Islamists to go home.

Deputy Defense Minister Salad Ali Jelle said two other civilians were killed in the attack on defense headquarters. He accused Islamist remnants of paying the attackers. "The insurgents are paying $100 per day to whoever fires rockets and mortars at the government and people," he said.