Gunmen in Somalia have shot and killed an Italian nun at a children's hospital in the capital Mogadishu.

The attack has drawn speculation of links to Muslim anger over the Pope's recent remarks on Islam.

The Catholic nun's guard also died from pistol shots in the latest attack on foreign personnel in volatile Somalia.

A nun from the Missionaries order identified her as sister Leonella Sgorbati, born in 1940, in Piacenza in northern Italy.

In Somalia since 2002, she trained nurses at the SOS Kindergarten hospital.

The Italian government said the nun and two other Italian nuns working with her had been repeatedly advised to leave Somalia, which was formerly ruled by Italy.

The assassinations were a blow to Mogadishu's new Islamist rulers' attempt to prove they have pacified one of the world's most lawless cities since chasing out warlords in June.

Elsewhere a group of Palestinians set fire to a Roman Catholic church in the Palestinian town of Tubas outside of Jenin, causing minor damage before the flames were put out.