23 July 2009

Somalia: Battles Rage in Central Region Between Islamist Rivals

Dhusamareb — The battles were concentrated in Galgadud region, in central Somalia, where Al Shabaab hardliners and the Sufi militia, Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jamee'a, have been battling for control of towns since late 2008.

In Hiran region, south of Galgadud, Al Shabaab guerrillas fought against Ahlu Sunnah militiamen for control of a district yesterday.

Casualty figures could not be independently verified as the fighting took place at remote locations, but l ocal sources and witnesses said tens of people have been killed in the fierce clashes since Wednesday.

ocal sources and witnesses said tens of people have been killed in the fierce clashes since Wednesday.

The fighting continued into Thursday with both sides were "receiving reinforcements" and civilians were reportedly fleeing the area to safety.

Sheikh Abdirisak Asari, spokesman for Ahlu Sunnah, told reporters that they "killed 40 Al Shabaab fighters," while the Ahlu Sunnah side lost six fighters.

But Sheikh Ali "Dheere" Mohamud, the Al Shabaab spokesman, claimed victory in the newest round of fighting among the Islamist rivals. He did not give casualty numbers.

Ahlu Sunnah is considered a pro-government militia while Al Shabaab is attempting to overthrow the U.N.-backed interim government in Mogadishu, the Somali capital.

Much of south-central Somalia is mired in armed clashes between pro-government forces and Islamist insurgents. The country's northern regions of Somaliland and Puntland are relatively stable and are governed by functioning administrations.

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