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Eritrea Condemns AU Call for Sanctions

Eritrea has condemned the African Union's call for sanctions against the country, which the AU accuses of helping Islamist insurgents in Somalia.

In a statement, Eritrea's foreign affairs ministry says last Wednesday's call from the AU Peace and Security Council was irresponsible and made on the basis of "groundless accusations."

The AU asked the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on Eritrea and any other party providing support to Islamists who are trying to topple the Somali government.

The AU, Somalia, the United States, and an East African regional bloc, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, have all accused Eritrea's government of providing weapons and funding to the insurgents.

Eritrea has repeatedly denied the charges, saying it is the victim of an international conspiracy.

Late on Tuesday, insurgents fired mortars toward the Somali presidential palace in Mogadishu, killing at least seven civilians.

Witnesses say the mortars, aimed at the mansion, hit a nearby neighborhood instead.

Fighting in Mogadishu has killed nearly 200 people this month.

The United Nations says at least 67,000 Somalis have fled the capital since the main insurgent groups, al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam, began an offensive against the government nearly three weeks ago.