Islamist insurgents have attacked Ethiopian troops who were preparing to distribute food in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.

Witnesses say as many as five civilians may have been killed in Friday's clash in the city's northern Huriwa district. Islamist spokesman Sheikh Mohamoud Ibrahim Suley told the French news agency AFP five Ethiopian soldiers were also killed in the fighting.

Witness say the bodies of two men were found Friday elsewhere in the capital, one near the Bakara market.

Islamist fighters have waged a deadly 17-month insurgency against Somalia's Ethiopian-backed interim government.

The United Nations recently initiated peace talks in Djibouti between the government and exiled Islamist leaders. But a key Islamist opposition group has ruled out holding direct talks with the government until it sets a timetable for the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops.

The insurgency began soon after government and Ethiopian troops pushed an Islamist movement from power in southern Somalia.

Somalia has not had a stable central government in 17 years.

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