7 June 2009

Somalia: 50 Killed in Central Somalia Clashes, Aweys 'Wounded'

Dhusamareb — Islamist hardliners have taken control of a small town in central Somalia after heavy battles killed at least 50 people and wounded scores on Friday, Radio Garowe reports.

The fighting took place in Wabho, a small town in El Bur district of Galgadud region. At least 46 people wounded during the battles were rushed to hospitals in Guri El and Dhusamareb, the provincial capital of Galgadud.

Muse Abdi Arale, spokesman for Hizbul Islam faction, told reporters that rebel factions now control Wabho town.

"The Mujahideen won the battle and we captured three armed trucks and there were many casualties on both sides," Mr. Arale added.

Sheikh Ali "Dheere" Mohamud, the new spokesman for Al Shabaab guerrillas, spoke to reporters via telephone while in Wabho and claimed that the pro-government Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jamee'a militia "lost the battle and an important town."

Ahlu Sunnah militia commanders declined to comment on Friday's armed clashes, which local sources described as the worst single-day fighting the town has ever seen.

"Dead bodies are littered along the roads and most of the dead victims are fighters," said a witness in Wabho speaking on Mogadishu-based radio stations.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, the rebel leader of Hizbul Islam, has been sighted in Galgadud region where the most intense battles took place. Unconfirmed reports said Sheikh Aweys was wounded during the fight for Wabho.

Local sources reported that 'foreign fighters' took part of the battle for Wabho and "some died," although the report could not be independently verified.

Al Shabaab, which is considered a terror group by the U.S. government, has readily admitted to keeping non-Somali fighters among its ranks as it aims to topple the U.N.-backed Somali interim government led by President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.

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