Sunday, August 24, 2008

Somali Resistance Forces Seize Port at Kismayu From US-backed Occupationists

Corpses litter Somali port

23/08/2008 13:24 - (SA)

Kismayu - Bodies littered the streets of this strategic southern port in Somalia on Saturday, a day after it was seized by Islamist rebels in fighting that killed at least 70 people.

The loss of Kismayu to the al-Shabaab insurgents was another blow for Somalia's interim government, which signed a peace deal with some opposition figures last week that has only seemed to stoke violence in the Horn of Africa nation.

"We are now collecting the corpses lying in the streets," resident Mohamed Farah, 55, told Reuters.

"The town is calm today and we're busy burying the victims of the fighting. The Islamists are at the abandoned sea and air ports, and people here are hoping to reopen their businesses."

Since the start of last year, al-Shabaab rebels have been waging an Iraq-style insurgency of mortar attacks, roadside bombings and assassinations, targeting the fragile administration and its Ethiopian military allies.

The artillery and gun battles that broke out on Wednesday around Kismayu were the heaviest in the area for months. Medical workers said at least 140 people had been wounded.

Unidentified aircraft

Fearful residents said large, unidentified aircraft had been flying over the area since then. "We don't know what will happen, but we are scared," said another local man, Hussein Ahmed, 35.

It was not clear who sent the planes. The United States, which has launched air strikes inside Somalia in recent months, officially listed al-Shabaab earlier this year as a terrorist organisation with close ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda.

Washington sees Somalia as a training ground for extremists and says that radical Islamist leaders have made much of it a safe haven for high level suspects, including the bombers of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania a decade ago.

The violence in Somalia has killed more than 8 000 civilians and uprooted 1 million since the beginning of 2007, when government forces backed by Ethiopian tanks and warplanes drove a sharia courts group out of the capital Mogadishu.

On Monday, UN-led talks in Djibouti produced a tentative peace agreement between the government and some opposition figures. But the deal had already been rejected by al-Shabaab commanders and other opposition hardliners.

Many in Kismayu fear the pro-government clan militia that fled the town on Friday might soon try to regroup to retake it.

"The capture of Kismayu by al-Shabaab may bring us a new disaster," Fatuma Mohamud, a local mother-of-four, told Reuters.

"We're afraid our town will become like Mogadishu, where explosions and hit-and-run attacks are order of the day."

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