Friday, August 21, 2009

Somali Resistance Forces Retake Two Towns

Thursday, August 20, 2009
20:18 Mecca time, 17:18 GMT

Somali fighters retake two towns

Somalia has been under a state of emergency since Wednesday

Heavy fighting in Somalia has left at least 15 people dead as government soldiers and al-Shabab fighters battle for control of strategic towns.

Fighting started in Bula Burte, a town north of Mogadishu, the capital, on Thursday when government soldiers moved into the town which had been dominated by the opposition group.

Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahim, an al-Shabab commander, said: "They attacked us this morning with a large army, but they sheepishly retreated and many of their fighters are strewn in the street now."

Abdirahman Ali, a local nurse, said: "The dead are from both sides [fighters and civilians]."

Al-Shabab fighters also moved into Balad Wayne, a town near the border with Ethiopia.

One resident, Daud Haji Ibar, said: "There was no big fighting, but the government soldiers have left the western part of Balad Weyne and the al-Shabab men are in control."

Witnesses said they saw Ethiopian troops entering Somalia, identifying them by their uniforms and vehicle licence plates. However, Ali Mohamed Gedi, a spokesman for the regional government of Balad Wayne, denied the claims.

Control of Balad Weyne gives a military advantage because of its proximity to Ethiopia, which has sent troops over the border in the past in support of government troops.

Balad Weyne also serves as a link between southern Somalia and the agriculturally rich central region.

The latest clashes come amid a vast counter-offensive against al-Shabab strongholds in the centre and south of the country.

Somalia has been under a state of emergency since Wednesday.

Emergency rule allows Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the president, to make major decisions without consulting the parliament.

Violence in Somalia has killed at least 18,000 civilians since the start of 2007 and displaced at least one million others.

Source: Agencies

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