21 August 2009

Somalia: Unrest Prevails in Hiran Region

Beletwein — On Friday, there were reports of fighting in Mahas district between the pro-government Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jamee'a militia and Al Shabaab insurgents.

There were no reports of casualties available and conflicting reports are emerging from the district, according to the Radio Garowe correspondent in Beletwein, the provincial capital of Hiran region.

Some reports say Ahlu Sunnah fighters attacked Mahas district and kicked out Al Shabaab. But other reports say Ahlu Sunnah's attack was repulsed and Al Shabaab remain in control of Mahas.

All communications to Mahas are currently cut off, making it difficult to confirm facts.

Meanwhile, Somali government forces who launched an offensive yesterday to take control of Bulo Burte district from the insurgent's control have returned to Beletwein. At least six people were killed during yesterday's battle.

It is not clear why the government forces returned, but insurgent fighters seized control of west Beletwein yesterday as fighting erupted in Bulo Burte.

Also Friday, Ethiopian soldiers briefly entered Beletwein but withdrew to the outskirts of town after staying only a few hours.

Locals said the insurgents who seized west Beletwein fled away and now all of Beletwein is under the control of government forces, but there were reports of skirmishes on the western outskirts of town.

Separately, six gunmen used pistols to target and kill four civilians inside Beletwein today. Among the dead was a local trader who tried to stop the killers from taking the life of a religious man. Both men were shot and killed.

It is not clear why the four civilians were targeted. Last night, a well-known Islamic preacher was killed in Beletwein by two gunmen, who escaped.

Somalia's UN-recognized transitional federal government is struggling to end an insurgency that began in early 2007.

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