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Fierce Fighting in Somali Capital Kills 15

Heavy fighting in Somalia's capital between insurgents and African Union peacekeepers has killed at least 15 people and wounded more than 20 others.

Witnesses describe it as the worst fighting in months in Mogadishu and say most of the casualties involve civilians. An emergency official says women and children are among the dead.

The al-Qaida-linked group al-Shabab claims the violence erupted after its fighters attacked multiple bases belonging to government and AU peacekeeping troops early Friday.

Both sides exchanged gunfire and mortar shells near a strategic intersection in Mogadishu known as K4, or Kilometer Four. The site has been under peacekeeper control, but has seen heavy attacks from militants. Peacekeepers say controlling K4 is crucial to controlling the city.

The fighting comes a day after the United Nations voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the AU peacekeeping mission in the war-torn country for another year.

The militant groups al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam control parts of the capital and have been fighting to overthrow the Western-backed government.

The weak transitional government is trying to recapture the city. African Union peacekeepers are helping to control key sites, including the airport, seaport and the presidential palace.

Islamist insurgents have gained control of much of southern and central Somalia after a three-year insurgency.

The militants are trying to oust the moderate Islamic government to set up a strict Islamic state.

Some information for this report was provided by AF and, AP.