Islamist rebels seize strategic Somali town again

Islamist fighters in Somalia seized a strategic town north of Mogadishu on Wednesday for the second time in a fortnight, a spokesperson for the insurgents said.

Jowhar is the most significant of several towns the rebels have captured in recent months, highlighting the inability of the Western-backed interim government to impose its authority, despite support from Ethiopian and African Union troops.

The Islamists, who are remnants of a sharia courts group ousted from the capital at the end of 2006, briefly seized Jowhar on March 26. Early on Wednesday, they did it again.

“No fighting took place because the enemy troops had abandoned the town by midnight when they heard we were coming,” the Islamists’ spokesperson, Abdirahim Isa Adow, said by telephone.

The rebels freed prisoners in Jowhar, which served as the government’s temporary base in 2005, Adow said. It was not clear whether Islamist fighters were still in the town.

In recent months the insurgents have seized towns from local administrations that often amount to little more than militias, only to give them up and melt away, or be routed by Ethiopian or Somali government forces.—Reuters

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