MOGADISHU (Somalilandpress) — Gun fights between Somali government troops and Islamist rebels in the capital Mogadishu has killed 20 people, including more than a dozen civilians, officials said on Saturday.

The clashes took place after heavily-armed, al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgents attacked a government military base in Dharkenley district, south of the capital on Friday. The fighting was over by the end of the day.

“We pushed them back and killed 13 of al Shabaab’s fighters. We are still at our bases,” Abdiazis Ali, a senior Somali military officer, told Reuters.

“Four of our troops died and there are also a few injuries.”

Al Shabaab, seen by Washington as al Qaeda’s proxy in the Horn of Africa region and which controls much of the country and most of the capital, confirmed the offensive.

The group gave no details of any toll but said the attack was part of their plan to seize the rest of Mogadishu.
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Fighting in Somalia has killed at least 21,000 people since the start of 2007 and driven another 1.5 million from their homes, triggering one of the world’s worst humanitarian emergencies.

“We have (a) record of three civilian deaths and 11 wounded in yesterday’s fighting,” Ali Yasin Gedi, deputy chairman of the Elman peace and human rights grou, said on Saturday.

Separately, about 100 Somali government troops, who were trained over the last year by neighbouring Ethiopia, have crossed back into Somalia and joined the rebel ranks, according to local officials and militia fighters in the border town of Balad Hawa.

Somalia has had no effective central government for the last 19 years and Western efforts to install one to steer the country back to stability have been greatly undermined by the al Shabaab, and another smaller group called Hisbul-Islam.

Source: Reuters | Sunday – June 20, 2010

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