20 December 2010

Somalia: Aweys Surrenders to Al Shabaab, Six Killed in Bombing

Somali Islamist hardliner Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys and the Hizbul Islam insurgent faction he leads has surrendered and joined Al Shabaab insurgents, on a day when at least four Somali government soldiers were killed in a Mogadishu roadside bombing, Radio Garowe reports.

Sheikh Mohamed Osman Arus, the spokesman for Hizbul Islam insurgents, told local media that "the name Hizbul Islam no longer exists."

"All the officers of Hizbul Islam have joined Al Shabaab and no one refused, including our leader Sheikh Aweys," Arus told reporters in Mogadishu.

He stated that Sheikh Aweys informed his Hizbul Islam loyalists that an "Islamic government will be established for Somalia," adding: "We have adopted the Al Shabaab name and our forces have joined Al Shabaab."

On Monday, Hizbul Islam fighters were seen pouring into areas of Mogadishu controlled by Al Shabaab, which is an Al Qaeda-affiliated group that controls most regions in southern Somalia.

Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam have fought many times since 2009, with Al Shabaab seizing military control over key towns like Kismayo and Beledweyne through violent force. Most recently, earlier this week, Al Shabaab fighters seized control of Burhakaba town in Bay region in two days of fighting where at least 30 militants were killed.

Soldiers killed in roadside bombing

At least four Somali government soldiers on patrol along Industry Road in Mogadishu were killed in a roadside bombing Monday, witnesses and officers said.

Six people were killed including two civilians described as a woman and a young male. Both victims were bystanders who were killed when a car transporting soldiers exploded.

Ahmed Yare, a Somali military official, told Garowe Online that Somali troops had been conducting search operations in the vicinity when the explosion happened.

Al Shabaab insurgents claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Mogadishu has been wracked by insurgent violence since early 2007 when Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam insurgent factions began attacking Somali interim government forces, who are backed by 8,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force (AMISOM).

Upwards of 21,000 people have been killed in the three-year insurgency so far.

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