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Somali insurgents impose curfew after grenade attack

Somali insurgent movement al-Shabaab said on Friday it had imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Kismayu after a rare attack near one of its bases in the southern port city it has held since mid-2008.

Two civilians were injured when a hand-grenade was hurled towards the base on Thursday night, locals said, in the latest violence in the Horn of Africa nation which has suffered 18 years of near-continuous civil conflict.

”We imposed curfew on Kismayu to tighten security,” senior al-Shabaab official Sheikh Ahmed Hassan told Reuters.

”We are interrogating the two injured civilians. We do not really know who hurled the hand grenade.”

Al-Shabaab, which Western security services say is a proxy for al-Qaeda, has been fighting the Somali government since early 2007 in a rebellion that has killed nearly 18 000 civilians and driven more than one million from their homes.

The conflict has worsened a dire humanitarian situation, enabled piracy to flourish offshore, and heightened tensions and security worries around the Horn of Africa.

Al-Shabaab has imposed strict sharia law on Kismayu and other towns it controls in south Somalia. It often bans drinking, films, wedding parties and music, and punishes suspected government collaborators, sometimes by beheading.

Though witnesses say al-Shabaab has foreign fighters in its ranks, the group insists it is fighting for Somalia’s sovereignty and against a Western-imposed government.

In the worst fighting for months, government forces have been battling al-Shabaab fighters in Mogadishu, 500km north of Kismayu, this month, with scores killed, and tens of thousands of refugees streaming out of the city.

Neighbouring Kenya houses about 300 000 Somali refugees, has suffered cross-border clashes, has watched house prices soar in Nairobi on what local analysts say is an injection of pirates’ ransom money, and is worried for all of East Africa.

”This is not good for investment in the region,” Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said, pledging Nairobi’s support for Somali government efforts to counter al-Shabaab. — Reuters

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