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At Least 8 Killed in More Mogadishu Fighting

Stains of blood cover a hallway inside the Hotel Muna in Mogadishu, 24 Aug 2010

More fighting has erupted in Somalia's capital, a day after Islamist militants attacked a hotel and killed more than 30 people.

Witnesses say the insurgent group al-Shabab and pro-government forces exchanged heavy artillery fire in Mogadishu Wednesday. At least eight people have been reported killed.

Commanders on the government side say al-Shabab tried to seize areas near the presidential palace overnight but were pushed back by soldiers and African Union peacekeepers.

On Tuesday, al-Shabab gunmen attacked a hotel in one of the few parts of Mogadishu under government control. The Somali ministry of information says 33 people were killed, including four members of parliament.

Medics say more than 80 people have been killed in fighting since Monday, when al-Shabab said it was starting an offensive against the Somali government and African Union troops that support it.

The AU force helps the government maintain control of three key sites -- the airport, seaport, and presidential palace.

The United States strongly condemned the hotel attack. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the fact that the attack took place during Ramadan highlights al-Shabab's complete disregard for human life, Somali culture, and Islam.

Al-Shabab and another insurgent group, Hizbul Islam, want to topple the Somali government and establish a strict Islamic state. The groups have already imposed harshly conservative Islamic law in the areas under their control.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.