18 July 2009

Somalia: Four Wounded in Central Somalia Fighting After Ethiopia Pullout

Beletwein — At least four people were wounded Friday in central Somalia in an hour-long battle between pro-government forces and insurgents, Radio Garowe reports.

The fighting erupted in Beletwein after Hizbul Islam insurgents attacked the town's central jail, sparking a battle with pro-government forces guarding the jail.

Sheikh Abdi Mohamed Osman, a commander with Hizbul Islam, said they attacked the jail after pro-government forces began "targeting religious personalities" but he did not elaborate.

The battle subsided later on Friday, but residents said the warring groups are sitting on opposite ends of a strategic bridge that connects Beletwein's eastern and western halves divided by the Shabelle River. Beletwein is the provincial capital of Hiran region.

On Tuesday morning, Ethiopian troops pulled out of parts of Hiran region where they established a military post at Kala-Beyr junction in May to monitor traffic movement between Somalia's southern, central and northern regions. The junction also is a pathway to the Somali-inhabited region of eastern Ethiopia.

Hizbul Islam rebels are fighting alongside Al Shabaab faction to overthrow the Western-backed interim government in Mogadishu, led by former Islamist insurgent chief Sheikh Sharif Ahmed as president.

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