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02 Oct 2009 13:26
Somalia’s al-Shabaab rebels took full control of the southern port of Kismayu on Friday and sought to play down fears that clashes with their ousted rivals, Hizbul Islam, might spread to other areas.
A local rights group said at least 28 civilians were killed in fighting between the groups in the port on Thursday, along with an unknown number of combatants. One Hizbul Islam commander said he believed scores of gunmen had died in the battle.
Until the latest fighting, the two Islamist groups had shared control of the port, a lucrative source of taxes and other income.
Sheikh Hassan Yaqub, the spokesperson in Kismayu for al-Shabaab, told Reuters by telephone his side’s forces were now in charge.
Washington describes al-Shabaab as al-Qaeda’s proxy in the failed Horn of Africa state.
“Everything is going well now in Kismayu.
“Many mujahideen died in the fighting, but we are providing medical care to our opponents who were injured.”
Hospital workers said more than 120 civilians were wounded.
Hizbul Islam fighters quit Kismayu for surrounding districts, and there were fears they would retaliate. But some of the hundreds of residents who had fled returned to their homes on Friday, and some businesses reopened their doors.—Reuters
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