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Fighting erupts in Somalia
PostPosted: Fri Nov 24, 2006 12:23 pm Reply with quote
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Fighting erupts in Somalia
06/11/2006 12:47 - (SA)

Mogadishu - Heavy fighting erupted in northern Somalia on Monday as Islamic forces clashed with militia backed by Ethiopian troops, said an Islamic official.

They were the first clashes since peace talks aimed at averting an all-out war in the country collapsed.

Islamic militia said they came under attack close to the border of the semiautonomous region of Puntland in the country's north, a region which had close ties to Ethiopia and had resisted the spread of the Islamic courts, who now controlled most of southern Somalia.

The clash marked the first time fighting had broken out between forces in Puntland, the home of Somalia's current president Abdullahi Yusuf, and the powerful Islamic militia.

It came amid fears that Somalia was teetering on the brink of a war that could engulf the entire Horn of Africa region.

No casualties reported

Sheik Yusuf Mohamed Siyad Indhaade, national security chairperson for the Islamic courts, said: "Our troops were attacked this morning by Ethiopian backed Puntland militias."

He said that no casualties were reported from the fighting and that the Islamic militia had repulsed the attack.

The attack, involving pickup trucks - known as "technicals" - mounted with heavy machine guns took place in Galinsoor, 760km north of Mogadishu and 60km south of the Puntland border. Ethiopian and Puntland officials were not immediately available for comment.

Meanwhile in the southern Somali town of Baidoa - the base of the transitional government led by Yusuf and virtually the only town it controlled - protesters took to the streets to demonstrate after the country's most powerful parliamentarians broke ranks to hold peace talks with their Islamic rivals.

'We don't want the speaker'

Halima Ahmed, one of the protesters on the demonstration organised by the government, said: "We don't want the speaker because he wants to talk with Islamic courts who are attacking us.

"We will withdraw our support from the parliamentary speaker for breaking ranks with the government."

Parliament speaker Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden led a 25-member delegation that travelled to Mogadishu, 250km east of Baidoa, on Sunday to meet Islamic leaders despite the government wanting to try to form a "unified" position with the president and prime minister first.

Aden was considered the Somali government's most sympathetic leader to the Islamic courts, which the United States accused of having ties to al-Qaeda.

His decision to hold talks without the co-operation of the prime minister and president was a direct challenge to their authority and could lead to the collapse of the government.

The trip came days after the government's peace talks with the Islamists collapsed in Khartoum, Sudan.

Somalia had not had an effective government since 1991, after warlords overthrew a dictator and then turned on one another.

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Fighting erupts in Somalia
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