Saturday, 10 October 2009

Somalia: 3 Hizbul Islam members assassinated in Mogadishu area

MOGADISHU, Somalia Oct 10 (Garowe Online) - Three militia officers with Somali rebel outfit Hizbul Islam were gunned down during a thirty-minute span on Friday, raising concerns of an assassination spree by a rival Islamist faction, Radio Garowe reports.
A Hizbul Islam militia commander, identified as Ahmed Taliban, was killed after unknown gunmen opened fire on his vehicle in Elasha Biyaha area along the road connecting the capital Mogadishu to the agricultural town of Afgoye. Three other people inside the car were also killed in the spray of bullets, according to local sources.
Elasha Biyaha, where most of Mogadishu's displaced civilians have fled since 2007, is the headquarters of Hizbul Islam chief Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys.
Mr. Taliban was a well-known militia commander and a “close associate” of Sheikh Aweys, the sources added. The masked attackers escaped in a Renault sedan, witnesses reported.
Two other Hizbul Islam militia officers were gunned down Saturday. One victim was a Hizbul Islam militia commander who was shot and killed in Afgoye town, while the second victim was a Hizbul Islam officer in charge of finances, who was killed in Mogadishu’s sprawling Bakara Market.
The separate assassinations were carried out within minutes of each other. No group has claimed responsibility for the assassinations, but the killings come at a time of growing military tension between Hizbul Islam and Al Shabaab hardliners.
Meanwhile, Hizbul Islam fighters and armed trucks have reinforced the checkpoint at Sinka Dheer area in southern Mogadishu, which leads to Elasha Biyaha and Afgoye area.
Sources said there are concerns of an Al Shabaab attack on Elasha Biyaha and the Hizbul Islam reinforcements were sent to Sinka Dheer as a defensive position.
The outbreak of a war in the southern port of Kismayo last week between Hizbul Islam and Al Shabaab has deepened military tensions. Although Sheikh Aweys has called for a ceasefire and Al Shabaab leaders have publicly spoken of seeking an agreement, armed confrontations continue in the Kismayo area.
On Oct. 3, a Hizbul Islam official was assassinated in the central town of Beletwein, with suspicion primarily falling on Al Shabaab assassins.

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