14 June 2009

Somalia: Five Soldiers Killed in Battle Among Government Forces

Mogadishu — At least five soldiers were killed and nine other people wounded in a battle among Somali government forces in the capital Mogadishu, Radio Garowe reports Sunday.

The fighting erupted at a checkpoint in the southern outskirts of Mogadishu, where a group of government forces attacked another group manning the checkpoint.

The checkpoint soldiers stopped a convoy of aid trucks and were reportedly demanding extortion money when a second group of soldiers attacked them, witnesses said.

" I saw five dead soldiers and many more wounded, " said a witness, who stated that the fighting erupted after a group of soldiers launched an "organized attack " on other soldiers manning the checkpoint.

Somali police officials have refused to speak publicly about the battle, which lasted for nearly two hours and wounded nine people, mostly soldiers, according to sources at Medina Hospital.

Separately, Justice Minister Sheikh Abdirahman Janakow survived a bomb blast when a roadside bomb missed his vehicle.

Witnesses said the minister was not hurt and the vehicle did not sustain any damage.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people protested along the road between Mogadishu and Afgoye, a district 30km south of the capital. The protestors, who fled the violence in Mogadishu to makeshift camps in surrounding regions, asked for international assistance as they lack daily needs like food and water.

Most of the protestors were women and children, according to witnesses.

Somalia's interim government is weak and controls pockets of Mogadishu, with Islamist hardliners controlling most regions in the southern and central part of the Somalia.

The ongoing insurgency in south-central Somalia, especially in Mogadishu, has killed upwards of 18,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians from their homes.

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