A senior Arab League official says the conference to reconcile Somalia's warring factions has been postponed until mid-May for security reasons.

The league's head of African affairs, Samir Hosni, made the announcement in Cairo Wednesday as new violence broke out in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Witnesses say Ethiopian troops and Islamist insurgents exchanged gunfire in the city's northern neighborhoods, killing at least three civilians.

The fighting was in breach of a cease-fire reached more than a week ago between the Ethiopians and the city's dominant Hawiye clan.

That truce ended what witnesses called the worst violence the capital has seen in 15 years. The Hawiye clan reported Tuesday that the four days of fighting beginning March 29 killed nearly 1,100 people.

The clashes erupted when Somali government troops and their Ethiopian allies began a crackdown on the Islamist fighters and clan militia.

Top Somali officials have hinted the reconcilation conference would be postponed because of the violence.

The proposed conference is aimed at ending years of chaos and violence in Somalia. The Horn of Africa country has not had an effective central government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

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