The United Nations has urged Saudi Arabia to play a leading role in efforts to stabilize Somalia following another day of violence in the capital that claimed 12 lives.

The United Nations special envoy for Somalia, Ahmed Ould Abdallah, said Monday Saudi Arabia has the "moral authority" to oversee such an initiative and said it also has a close relationship with Somalia because it hosts hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees.

Abdallah also called for the African Union force in Somali to be strengthened. The AU force is supposed to be comprised of 8,000 troops but so far only about 1,600 Ugandan troops are on the ground.

Mogadishu residents said Monday three victims died when mortar shells fell on the crowded Bakara market. They say at least nine others died in shelling in northern Mogadishu.

It was not clear who was responsible for the attacks.

Fighting in Mogadishu this year has claimed thousands of lives and forced more than a half million residents to flee for safer areas.

Meanwhile, negotiations are underway to free a French journalist, Gwen Le Gouil, who was kidnapped in Somalia's Puntland region on Sunday. There are reports that the kidnappers are demanding $70,000 for the camerman's release.

Gunmen abducted Le Gouli as he worked on a report about smugglers who transport illegal migrants to Yemen.

Thousands of Somalis cross the Gulf of Aden each year to escape the fighting and chaos that has made life difficult in their homeland in recent years.