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22 May 2009 10:42
Fierce clashes on Friday left at least three people dead as Somali government forces attempted to drive Islamist rebels out of the capital Mogadishu, officials and witnesses said.
“This is a large military offensive against violent people,” military spokesman Farhan Mahdi Mohamed told AFP. “The government will sweep them out of the capital and the fighting will continue until that happens.”
At least three people, one of them a local journalist, were killed in the crossfire as government forces tried to dislodge the Islamists from areas they control in the south of the capital.
Mohamed said one soldier was wounded and claimed government forces had regained control of three areas of the capital—Tarbunka, Bakara and Howlwadag—previously held by the insurgents.
A spokesman for the rebels, who call themselves the Shebab or Party of Youth, denied the claim.
“The enemy of Allah attacked our positions this morning and our fighters are defending themselves.
They have not not taken any
positions from us,” said Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Rage.
An AFP reporter saw two dead bodies and other witnesses said eight civilians were wounded while others were fleeing the capital.
The editor of Radio Shabelle said one of its journalists was killed as he tried to flee the fighting.
“His relatives have confirmed to us that he was crossing a road to escape the fighting when he was caught in the crossfire.
Ten days of clashes between the two sides have killed more than 100 people and displaced 46 000 others.
The Shebab and Hezb al-Islamiya fighters are the main insurgents trying to topple the government of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed elected in January under a United Nations-sponsored reconciliation talks.
An East African regional bloc this week called on the UN to impose an aerial and maritime blockade to starve the rebels of weapons supplies.—Sapa/AFP
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