At least 19 killed in Somali fighting

 

At least 19 Somalis, including 15 soldiers were killed, and several wounded on Thursday in separate clashes between Islamist insurgents and security forces, officials and witnesses said.

 

The Islamist fighters attacked a military camp near in Addado town, 500 kilometres (310 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu, killing 15 soldiers and wounded 20 others.

 

"The fighting was very heavy, Shabaab fighters attacked our military base outside Addado (town) and we lost 15 men and six vehicles," Dahir Shidane, an army commander, told AFP.

 

"I don't know the casualties on the other side," added Shidane, the commander of the Somali forces in Central regions.

 

Several witnesses said government soldiers lost the fighting, the latest in the nation of nine million, which is increasingly running adrift in the face of a relentless insurgency.

 

"Many people were killed in the fighting, I couldn't count the dead bodies in the battle field," said resident Abdiwahab Haji Dahir.

 

Separately, insurgents attacked a Somali governor in southwestern region and killed two policemen and two civilians, witnesses said.

 

The attack occurred in Qasahdere town, 335 kilometres (208 miles) southwest of the capital Mogadishu, where Bay region governor Abdufatah Mohamed Ibrahim and other government officials were lodged in a hotel.

 

Contacted by AFP, the governor said the attack on his delegation took place at about 4am (0100 GMT), but he was unhurt.

 

Islamist fighters this week seized control of the central town of Buulo Burte, days after they briefly took control of Jowhar town, leaving a trail of fatalities.

 

Over the past year, the insurgents have attacked government targets after being ousted from the southern and central regions by Ethiopian-backed Somali troops early 2007.

 

The guerrilla fighting has killed thousands and forced hundreds of thousands to flee mainly from Mogadishu, which has been the epicentre of the clashes.

 

Somali Prime Minister Hassan Hussein Nur has adopted a more inclusive approach to the national reconciliation process than his predecessor Ali Mohamed Gedi, Ali Mohamed Gedi who was forced to quit late last year.

 

And Somalia's exiled Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed on Wednesday pledged his camp's commitment to a new peace drive but warned the movement would keep up its struggle against what it calls Ethiopian occupation.

 

Somalia has lacked an effective government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre paved the way for factional clashes that have defied numerous bids to restore stability.

 

A number of top international aid agencies -- including Oxfam, World Vision and Save the Children – said last month in a joint statement that the Horn of Africa country had become too dangerous for its workers.

 

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF - Doctors Without Borders) said Thursday it had closed operations in the southern Somali town of Kismayo following the January killing of three staff members. (AFP)

 
 
 
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