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By Abdi Hajji Hussein
At least 20 people were slain and 26 injured after Somali government forces backed by African Union peacekeepers attacked Al Shabaab forces in the northern part of Mogadishu, the insurgent group's last strongholds in the capital, medics and officials said.
"Our employees have so far collected some 20 dead people from Heliwa and Karan districts which are located Mogadishu's northern tip," an emergency worker told All Headline News.
More than 26 wounded people were taken to Mogadishu medical facilities as a result of Monday's battles, the worker added.
Local residents said early Monday morning fierce clashes between government forces and al Shabaab broke out in the Heliwa district as the two warring sides pounded each other with heavy artillery shelling and bombardments.
"A mortar landed at a house in Suqa Holaha (Livestock) neighborhood where three people including a woman were slain. All from the same family," a witness, who asked for anonymity, told AHN by phone.
The crackling of machine gun fire could be heard over the phone as he spoke.
He stated that four others have been injured and Mogadishu ambulance rushed them to the hospital for urgent treatment.
"Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and AMISOM forces have taken control of former Pasta Factory, Ex-Control Balad, Inter SOS junction, Galgalato in Heliwa and Karaan districts as part their operations to fully secure Mogadishu," a government statement said.
The battle comes as operations have started to take control of the city's northern corridor and drive the Al Qaeda-linked extremists out of the city, the statement added.
"The Pasta Factory compound was an operational hub for the extremists in which they shell civilian targets. This operation is intended to save the lives of the people who have returned to their homes."
Last week, a suicide attack by al Shabaab targeted a government compound housing several ministries in Mogadishu, leaving more than 100 people dead, including students applying for scholarships from Turkish government.
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World - Somalia: African Union Forces Attack Al Shabaab's Strongholds | Global Viewpoint