World Bulletin / News Desk
Islamic fighters said Saturday they had seized control of Somalia's third largest city.
The Islamic courts movement, which controlled the capital, Mogadishu, and much of the south for six months in 2006, said it wrested control of the southern port city of Kismayo from clan militias.
About 70 people were killed during the fighting which started Wednesday and 170 were wounded, said Dr. Ali Hassan of Kismayo Hospital.
Somalia has been at war since 1991, when clan-based militias ousted a socialist dictator and then fought for power among themselves. The conflict is complicated by clan loyalties and the involvement of archenemies Eritrea and Ethiopia, who both back opposite sides in the fighting.
Since then, Ethiopian troops have helped Somalia's shaky transitional government push the Islamists from power in Mogadishu and much of the south, but failed to establish security or improve living standards.
The Islamic courts movement launched an insurgency in the impoverished country nearly two years ago, but Kismayo would be the biggest city seized since early 2007. Spokesman Sheik Ibrahim Shukri said its forces moved into Kismayo at the request of its residents and that the city "will remain under Islamic control." Government officials declined to comment on the claim.
Ali Abdullahi Egal of Fanole Human Rights Group, a Kismayo-based organization, said that thousands of residents have fled the city, but he did not have exact figures.
Witnesses said Islamist fighters were patrolling the city Saturday allowing people to venture from their homes after some of the worst fighting in the city for months, reported AP.
"Now the town is calm, but we are still skeptical about the situation," said Fadumo Nuradin, a resident.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 24 Ağustos 2008, 15:13