Insurgents take over southern Somali town

April 7th, 2008 - 4:46 am ICT by admin  

Mogadishu, April 7 (Xinhua) Opposition Islamist fighters have taken control over southern Somali town of Balad after hours of fierce fighting with government troops based there, media reports and witnesses have said. Heavily armed insurgents loyal to the Union of Islamic Courts clashed Sunday with the small unit of Somali government soldiers based in in Balad, a town in Middle Shabelle province some 90 km north of the capital Mogadishu, before taking control of the town, a local radio station reported.

It added that it was not clear where the administration officials have gone since the town was taken over by insurgents.

According to residents, one soldier was killed and two civilians were wounded in the confrontation between the two sides.

Islamist forces have recently been active in provinces outside the restive Somali capital where they have been waging Iraqi style guerrilla war against government officials and Ethiopian and Somali troops since January 2007.

Recently, the insurgents had briefly seized Jawhar, the capital of Middle Shabelle province, and Buloburte in the central Somalia region of Hiran.

They usually launch surprise attacks on towns outside the capital, seize a number of them but leave after hours in most cases. They said it was not their strategy to hold on to places at this stage.

Somalia has been without a central authority since the late ruler Mohamed Siyad Barre was overthrown in 1991 by clan based factions who turned on each other carving the war-torn horn of African nation into rival fiefdoms.

A transitional government formed after protracted peace talks in Kenyan capital Nairobi is struggling with 15-month-old insurgency in the south and centre of the country where nearly 2, 500 of expected 8,000-strong African Union peacekeeping troops have been deployed.

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