African Union troops, militants fight street battles

African Union troops fought house-to-house battles with militants Thursday to clear space for aid groups bringing in food supplies after intelligence reports showed insurgents reinforcing for a possible attack on squalid camps of famine refugees.

MOGADISHU, Somalia — African Union troops fought house-to-house battles with militants Thursday to clear space for aid groups bringing in food supplies after intelligence reports showed insurgents reinforcing for a possible attack on squalid camps of famine refugees.

Heavy fighting erupted on the line of control between the government side and territory held by al-Shabab, Somalia’s dominant militant group.

At least six people were killed. The AU troops also paid a heavy price, with one official saying 19 were wounded, and some of them were put on an ambulance jet bound for Kenya.

Somalia’s famine is unfolding in the middle of a war zone, greatly complicating international efforts to prevent a wave of death. Some 2.2 million people live in an inaccessible famine zone controlled by the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab.

Thursday’s house-to-house fighting was only 2 1/2 miles (4 kilometres) from the nearest famine refugee camp, said Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the African Union peacekeeping force.