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Somali Governmet, AU Forces Attack Militants in Mogadishu

Somali government soldiers take positions during clashes with Islamist militants in Mogadishu, Somalia, October 10, 2011.

Heavy fighting has erupted in Somalia's capital, as pro-government forces try oust militant group al-Shabab from its last strongholds in the city.

Residents of northern Mogadishu reported hearing explosions and gunfire Monday as Somali government and African Union soldiers advanced on al-Shabab positions.

The offensive comes several days after al-Shabab suicide bombers killed at least 80 people at a Somali government compound.

It was al-Shabab's first major attack in the city since the group withdrew most of its fighters from Mogadishu in August. The group has since maintained control of a few outlying districts of the capital.

Al-Shabab once controlled nearly all of Mogadishu but has steadily lost ground over the past year to AU and government forces.

The militants seek to topple the U.N.-backed transitional government and impose a strict form of Islamic law across Somalia.

The AU force, technically a peacekeeping mission, consists of about 9,000 soldiers from Uganda and Burundi.

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