Saturday, December 09, 2006

Somali violence escalates

Mogadishu - Somalia's Islamic Courts and pro-government soldiers fought in heavy clashes for a second day on Saturday, said witnesses.

It is the latest escalation in skirmishing that many fear will erupt into all-out war.

The fighting took place in Maddoy village about 40km from the interim government's headquarters in Baidoa, the only town it controls.

The two sides had fought in the area on Friday, killing at least two bystanders.

"The war restarted about 30 minutes ago," Maddoy resident Ahmed Mohamed Adan told Reuters by telephone. "They are shelling each other heavily."

He said the government forces, pushed back by fighters from the Somali Islamic Courts Council on Friday, returned to the area with 20 "technicals" - pickup trucks mounted with heavy weapons - early on Saturday.

The two sides, including what residents said were Ethiopian troops backing the government, had fought in neighbouring Safar Nooley village along a front line the Islamic Courts have set up to encircle half of Baidoa.

Ethiopia has denied any involvement in the conflict, but security experts said the Horn of Africa military power has between 5 000 and 10 000 troops in the country to prop up the shaky government.

Source: news24


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