25 January 2011

Somalia: 10 Killed in Central Region in Battles Between Shabaab and Ahlu Sunna

At least 10 people mostly fighters were killed in central Somalia during Tuesday battles between Al Shabaab insurgents and the pro-government Ahlu Sunna militia, Radio Garowe reports.

Local reports said the fighting took place in three villages south of Guri El, a small trading town in Galgadud region of central Somalia.

Witnesses reported the violence in War-dhuumo-leh, Dhagah-yale and El Got villages, all located in Galgadud region.

Galgadud has been the epicenter of violence between Al Shabaab's northbound violent expansion and Ethiopian-backed Ahlu Sunna Wal Jam'ea militias, which control the region's key towns including the provincial capital, Dhusamareb.

"Our forces attacked Al Shabaab controlled areas after they [Al Shabaab] made military movements," said Sheikh Abdirizak Ashari, spokesman for the pro-government Ahlu Sunna militia.

He told Mogadishu radio stations via a telephone interview that no fighters from Ahlu Sunna were killed, but claimed to have killed "many Al Shabaab fighters" during the battles.

Al Shabaab's leader in Galgadud region, Sheikh Isse Kabo-kutukade, told reporters that Al Shabaab fighters "defended towns" against Ahlu Sunna attacks and claimed that Al Shabaab "now controls areas formerly controlled by Ahlu Sunna."

There were no independent reports to corroborate the two versions from the rival factions, but medical sources in Guri El and Dhusamareb towns controlled by Ahlu Sunna militia told Garowe Online confirmed that "wounded fighters" were rushed in for treatment but did not provide any specific casualty figures.

Pro-government Ahlu Sunna militia is an Islamist faction allied to Somalia's nominal government, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which is cornered to a few kilometers of Mogadishu in southern Somalia and protected by 8,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force (AMISOM).

Ahlu Sunna and Al Qaeda-affiliated Shabaab have battled for control over Galgadud region since Nov. 2008.

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