Monday, July 26, 2010

Thirteen Killed in Somalia's Puntland

Thirteen insurgents killed in Somalia's Puntland

* Insurgents killed in clashes with troops

* Several captured, president says

* Dozens killed in Mogadishu

HARGEISA, July 26 (Reuters) - Thirteen militia from the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group were killed in clashes with troops of the semi-autonomous northern Puntland region of Somalia, President of Puntland Abdirahman Mohamed Farole said on Monday.

The insurgents were killed after attacking Puntland's forces in an area to the south of Bosasso, on the same day when dozens of soldiers, insurgents and civilians were killed during fighting in the capital Mogadishu.

"Al Shabaab and foreign terrorists attacked our forces at an area 40 km to the south of Bosasso today. Heavy fighting took place and we killed 13 of them. We also captured several of them including a senior commander," Farole told reporters in a news conference held in Garowe, Puntland's capital.

Farole said three Puntland soldiers were wounded in the fighting, but that the troops managed to defeat the insurgents and take their positions.

Puntland has been relatively stable compared with the rest of Somalia, but violence and instability have risen in recent months and the region is also a major base for pirates who have been causing havoc to shipping off the Horn of Africa.

An African Union peacekeeping force in the capital, AMISOM, said it re-took a government building in the capital from the al Shabaab after heavy fighting, with casualties on both sides.

"Seven of our soldiers were killed by our own misdirected shell. As we advanced, I counted 18 dead bodies of al Shabaab" Mohamed Nur, a Somali military officer who fought alongside AMISOM troops told Reuters from the scene by phone.

Elman, a human rights group, said at least eight civilians were killed and 42 others were injured in the fighting.

Al Shabaab and another Islamist militia have been fighting the Western-backed Somali government since the start of 2007. They control much of the capital in a country deprived of an effective central government and mired in violence since warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

(Reporting by Ibrahim Mohamed in Hargeisa, Abdi Sheikh and Mohamed Ahmed in Mogadishu; editing by Jon Boyle)

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