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Shells kill 9 disabled people in Mogadishu hospital

* Shells aimed at sea port miss their target, hit hospital

* At least 9 disabled people killed, 19 wounded

* Violence during Ramadan worst for 20 years

MOGADISHU, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Shells fired towards Mogadishu's port killed at least 9 disabled people and wounded 19 on Friday evening in the latest in a string of mortar attacks by insurgents, witnesses and rights activist said on Saturday.

Residents said the mortars shells missed their target and landed on Martini, a former hospital that houses members of Somali forces disabled during a war with Ethiopia in 1977.

The Martini war veterans building lies between the presidential palace and Mogadishu's port, in the small part of Somalia's capital controlled by the government and African Union peacekeeping troops.

"Mortar shells killed 9 disabled persons and seriously injured 19 others," Yasin Ali Sheikh, vice chairman of Elman peace and human rights group, told Reuters.

"Transportation of the victims was delayed: gunmen killed two ambulance service drivers," he said. "We urge the government and opposition to allow an investigation by independent military experts so that those behind the attack can be taken to court."

Violence has killed more than 18,000 Somalis since the start of 2007 and displaced another 1.5 million. Hardline insurgents who want to impose their own harsh version of sharia law have been battling the country's Western-backed governments.

President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's government controls just parts of the coastal capital and central region. Most of the south is run by insurgents, including the al Shabaab group which Washington says has links to al Qaeda.

The West fears Somalia, a country that has languished without strong central government since 1991, may be harbouring supporters of Osama bin Laden who are planning to strike in east Africa or elsewhere.

On Thursday, the local Elman rights group said the behaviour of the hardline insurgents during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan was unacceptable.

They have launched attacks while civilians were breaking their daily fast with an evening meal and fired mortar barrages from hiding places in residential neighborhoods, it said.

"The Islamists are behind the mortar attack," Abdifatah Shaweye, Mogadishu's deputy mayor told Reuters. "The mortar shells were targeted at the sea port and every one understands where they were fired from."

"How can you call those who massacre the blind and the crippled in this month of Ramadan Muslims?" he said.

The insurgents were not immediately available for comment. (Additional reporting and writing by Abdi Sheikh; Editing by David Clarke and Louise Ireland)

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