Thursday, 8 October 2009

Somalia: Hizbul Islam claims to capture 'foreign fighters'

MOGADISHU, Somalia Oct 6 (Garowe Online) - A spokesman for Somali rebel faction Hizbul Islam has said that they captured 'foreign fighters' during battles against Al Shabaab, although Hizbul Islam fighters withdrew from a key military position, Radio Garowe reports.

Sheikh Ismail Haji Addow, spokesman for Hizbul Islam, told reporters in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Tuesday that Hizbul Islam "controls all fighting areas."

"Our fighters suffered casualties including deaths, but there are more casualties on the side of Al Shabaab," Sheikh Addow said, who declared victory.

He claimed that Hizbul Islam fighters captured "foreign fighters" from unnamed countries, who were fighting alongside Al Shabaab, an insurgent group listed as a terror organization by the U.S. and Australian governments.

Fighting was reported overnight Monday and into midday Tuesday, with independent sources confirming that Hizbul Islam fighters were pushed out of Janay Abdalla village in the outskirts of Kismayo

Hizbul Islam fighters withdrew to an area about 10km from Janay Abdalla, and although Al Shabaab rebels seized Janay Abdalla, they reportedly did not advance further.

The small village has been the scene of intense fighting for the past three days, with Hizbul Islam maintaining control of Janay Abdalla until Tuesday's battle.

There were no reliable casualty reports, but various sources tell Garowe Online that casualties were small on both sides.

Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam are two Somali rebel groups who have been jointly fighting to topple the Horn of Africa country's UN-recognized interim government since May.

The two rebel factions began fighting each other last Thursday over control of the key southern port of Kismayo, after Al Shabaab declared a new administration for Kismayo by excluding Hizbul Islam.

Despite Tuesday's fighting, Hizbul Islam chief Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys has called for a ceasefire between the two rebel groups.

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