Mogadishu, Somalia - At least seven people were killed in Mogadishu Monday after clashes broke out between pro-government Sufi sect militants and Al-Qaeda linked Islamists, officials and witnesses said.
The clashes erupted around Maka Al-Mukarama road where the Sufi militants supporting the government were stationed after heavily armed Shebab fighters attacked their positions.
Both sides claimed victory in the fighting.
"The fighting today was very heavy and we inflicted loses on the enemy. Two of our soldiers were killed and three others injured. We arrested several of their fighters during the fighting," Yonis Ali, spokesman for the Sufi militants told reporters.
Witnesses said five civilians were also killed by stray mortar and heavy artillery shells exchanged during the clashes and medical sources said the number of wounded civilians reached 17.
"I saw five civilians who died in the crossfire, three of them were killed after a heavy artillery shell struck a house in Bakara market, eight others were also injured in the same neighbourhood," witness Hussein Wardhigley said.
The clashes came after remarks by Defence Minister Abdihakin Haji Mohamud Fiqi vowing to eliminate Shebab militants from the country.
"We have given opportunities of negotiations to the Shebab elements; unfortunately they have failed to benefit from their chances and... we will eliminate them from the country. From now on, we will put all of our forces together to fight them," Fiqi told reporters in Mogadishu.
Monday's fighting was the heaviest in the capital in weeks.