Somalia: Islamist militia kicked out of key town by another group

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Fighting between African Union-backed government forces of Somalia and Islamist group, al-Shabab, on Saturday and Sunday, have resulted in over 60 deaths and 100 injuries, a human rights group has reported. The pro-government forces, Ahlu Sunna engaged the islamic insurgents in combat over the strategic town of Dhuusa Marreeb, north of Somali capital, Mogdishu.

Somali human rights group Elman, said al-Shabab had taken control of Dhuusa Marreeb, but the Ahlu Sunna which began as a non-violent group to promote moderate Islam fought the rebels to regain control of the town for the government.

Ahlu Sunna, who last year decided to take up arms against al-Qaeda linked al-Shabab, is reported to have recaptured the town from al-Shabab rebels.

According to Mr. Ali Yasin Gedi, vice chairman of Elman peace and human rights group, “Our monitoring office has confirmed that most of the casualties were from the warring factions, but some civilians were also killed. Many people who fled from the town have not returned yet and they are in the outskirts of the town without shelter and the sun is extremely hot.”

“We have counted 47 dead bodies and one hundred injured. The death toll might be double that as residents are still collecting bodies from alleys and under the trees. The whole region is tense and residents are fleeing from other towns,” Gedi added.

Last year, Ahlu Sunnah engaged and defeated al-Shabab in combat. But after yesterday’s battle, al-Shabab according to unconfirmed sources have began to regroup outside the contested town. Locals fear that a counter-attack is eminent.

An un-named local told reporters the fighting had been the most violent ever seen in Dhuusa Marreeb: “We have collected 77 dead bodies from inside and around Dusamareb town. We have reports that there are more dead bodies in the suburbs of the town.”

According to the area’s traditional chief, Abdulahi Gedi, the town is quiet at the moment and the al-Shabab fighters have been defeated in violent fighting during the night.

Al-Shabab has been carrying out hit-and-run attacks throughout central and southern Somalia. The Horn of Africa nation has not had a functioning national government since 1991. Its UN- and AU-backed government controls only a few parts of the country.

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