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[Dehai-WN] (Reuters): Heavy fighting in Somali capital kills 9

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2012 00:07:00 +0100

Heavy fighting in Somali capital kills 9

Sun Jan 22, 2012 5:07pm GMT

* Rebels launched counter attack with anti-aircraft guns

* Al Shabaab says US drone killed one of its senior militants

* British official rejects claim foreign fighter was British (Adds British
official (para 15)

By Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar

MOGADISHU, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Somali militants firing vehicle-mounted
anti-aircraft guns clashed with African Union forces for a second night in
Mogadishu, killing at least nine people including women and children, an
ambulance official said on Sunday.

African Union (AU) troops launched a new offensive against al Shabaab on
Friday, seizing rebel positions just outside the capital for the first time.

The insurgents, however, have launched counter attacks.

On Saturday night they struck a government military checkpoint known as
'Ex-control' in a northwest suburb of the coastal city. Soldiers with the
AU's AMISOM force repelled the assault, an AMISOM spokesman said.

Caught in the crossfire were Somalis seeking refuge in camps for displaced
people, victims already of the anarchic country's two-decade civil war, or

"At least nine displaced people, mostly women and children died in the camps
near the former American embassy on Friday and Saturday night," Ali Musa,
coordinator of the city's ambulance services, told Reuters.

Ex-control is a strategically important checkpoint. On the outskirts of
Mogadishu, it is the final government-controlled roadblock on the road that
bends south to Afgoye, a rebel stronghold about 30 km (17 miles) from the

"These (two) nights al Shabaab came close with anti-craft guns mounted on
lorries, but we repulsed them," Ndayiragije Come, spokesman for the AU's
Burundian contingent, said.


Camp resident Mohamed Sidow buried his mother on Sunday morning in a shallow
grave, hours after a stray round killed her.

"A bullet hit her in the head as she slept in front of our shelter last
night," Sidow told Reuters.

Panic engulfed the camp through the night, he said, as shells pounded the
area and bullets fizzed through the air. Trapped, Sidow and others were
unable to take the wounded to hospital.

"We could not carry my mother to hospital last night. Al Shabaab's
anti-aircraft fire forced us to stay put. My mother died from blood loss,"
he said.

Meanwhile, scores of families fled Elasha town and the surrounding area
after al Shabaab said a missile fired by a U.S. drone had hit a car in the
town, about 13 km from Mogadishu, killing one of its senior foreign

In a statement emailed late on Saturday, the insurgents said the militant
was British passport holder Bilal el Berjawi, also known as Abu Hafsa, of
Lebanese descent. The statement said Berjawi had grown up in west London and
joined Somalia's Islamist militants in early 2006.

"Hafsa ... took on a distinguished role in the fight against the warlords
that terrorized the city of Mogadishu at the time," the statement said.

But a British foreign office official denied Berjawi was a British national.
No other details were immediately available.

Asha Ibrahim, a mother of five, said she and her children were fleeing the
town of Lafole, close to Elasha.

"Mogadishu is no paradise, but we believe air strikes are more destructive
than the shelling in Mogadishu," she told Reuters."In Lafole, al Shabaab is
everyone's neighbour, so we are vulnerable to the bombs intended for al
Qaeda." (Editing by Richard Lough and Maria Golovnina)

C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved


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