Moderate Sunni Somalis attack Al-Shabaab town
Fighters from government-allied Ahla Sunna Waljamaca attacked the central town of Dusamareb to try and wrest control from al Shabaab.
A moderate Somali Sunni group assaulted a town held by al Shabaab movement on Thursday in renewed fighting between Islamist factions while the world pushes a peace process outside.
Fighters from government-allied Ahla Sunna Waljamaca attacked the central town of Dusamareb to try and wrest control from al Shabaab. Locals reported gunfire and mortar exchanges.
"Fierce fighting is going on," Habiba Maalim told Reuters from a nearby wood where many residents have fled.
The latest flare-up in weeks of clashes between the groups came as Somalia's parliament prepared to elect a new national president in Djibouti on Friday after voting to expand its numbers to include 200 moderate Islamist opponents.
The United Nations and other international players defend those steps, being taken in neighbouring Djibouti due to insecurity at home.
Al Shabaab insurgents have vowed to fight on, and this week overran Baidoa, the seat of parliament, after Ethiopian troops who had been supporting the government ended a more than two-year intervention in Somalia.
The assault on al Shabaab in Dusamareb appeared to be a pre-emptive strike by Ahla Sunna. Al Shabaab had been planning to attack Gurael, a town held by the moderate group nearby, Somalis in the area said.
"We and the residents attacked Dusamareb because Al Shabaab has become a pain in the neck," Ahla Sunna spokesman Sheikh Abdullahi Sheikh Abu Yusuf said.
Abu Yusuf claimed that Al Shabaab staged a campaign of terror, closing schools and desecrating graves.
"Al Shabaab has taken more than 20 people out of their homes. We cannot tolerate their slaughters. We want to reopen our Koranic schools and save our people and graves from the omnivorous Al Shabaab."
Al Shabaab controls large swathes of south-central Somalia, and has generally been able to bring security to those areas.
Reuters Last Mod: 29 Ocak 2009, 15:37