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Friday, May 22, 2009

Somalia TGS Strikes Back

MOGADISHU - Somali government forces attacked rebel strongholds in Mogadishu on Friday, triggering battles across the capital that killed at least 15 people.
  • Witnesses said four insurgents from the hardline Islamist al Shabaab group died and a journalist from local independent Shabelle Radio was also killed.
  • "I saw masked men running away carrying the bodies of four of their friends," said a mother-of-three who lives in the city's sprawling Bakara Market, told Reuters.
  • "We were surprised to see men in government uniforms fighting in Bakara. They have recaptured four police stations between here and the palace, and they are advancing further."
  • Sources at two Mogadishu hospitals said they received 85 wounded civilians on Friday, and that four of them later died.
  • Residents in the city's Hodon district said the bodies of six dead insurgents were lying at a police station there.

Residents said Friday's pre-dawn assaults looked to be a concerted effort by pro-government forces to seize back control of strategic sites in the capital held by the rebels.

  • "They have surrounded Bakara Market, al Shabaab's biggest stronghold in the city. We hope for the sake of peace that the government forces do not retreat later," one local man said.

Hassan Mahdi, a spokesman for Hizbul Islam, another Islamist guerrilla group battling the government, told Reuters by telephone that troops had struck at their positions too.

  • "Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam are counter-attacking ... we have pushed them back in some places. There are casualties, but I can't say how many. We are in the middle of fighting," Mahdi said as heavy gunfire thundered in the background.

Local journalist Abdirizak Warsame was killed in the crossfire as he walked to work at his radio station."A stray bullet hit him in the head and he died on the spot," Shabelle Radio boss Mukhtar Mohamed Hirabe told Reuters.

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