20 August 2009

Somalia: Govt Forces Clash With Insurgents in Central Town

Beletwein — Somali government forces clashed with insurgent fighters in the central regions Thursday, Radio Garowe reports.

The number of deaths could not be confirmed, but locals who fled the town of Bule Burte, in the central Hiran region, reported at least 19 wounded persons.

Most of the fighting was concentrated in the outskirts of Bulo Burte, where Islamist rebels Al Shabaab defended against the government's military offensive.

The latest reports indicated that the fighting stopped and government forces remain outside Bulo Burte. Many local residents had fled in the previous weeks, locals said.

Separately, Hizbul Islam insurgents forcefully re-took control of the western neighborhoods in Beletwein, provincial capital of Hiran region.

Somali insurgents have enjoyed more support in western Beletwein than in the eastern part of town, which is dominated by the sub-clan of Security Minister Omar Hashi, who was assassinated in June in an Al Shabaab suicide bombing.

Military tensions have been high in Hiran region in recent days. READ: Military apprehensions increase in central Somalia

Unconfirmed reports said Ethiopian troops have reached the outskirts of Beletwein, a key town near the Somali-Ethiopian border that was a major Ethiopian army base in 2008.

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