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Pro-gov't forces seize southern Somali town from Islamist insurgents
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16:50, August 17, 2009

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The pro-government forces in Somalia on Monday captured the southern border town of Beled Hawo from the Islamist insurgent group of Al-Shabaab, sources in the town have said.

The forces from the moderate pro-government Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamea sect along with the Somali government troops moved into the town in the early hours of the morning.

Beled Hawo in the southwestern Gedo region at the common border with both Ethiopian and Kenya has been controlled by Al-Shabaab Islamist movement for the past two years.

"The Al-Shabaab forces did not offer any resistance and have fled from their passes in the town after they learned of the advance of the Ahlu Sunna forces," a resident in Beled Hawo who did not want to be named, told Xinhua by phone.

The forces of the Alhu Sunna backed by the Somali government soldiers have been lately making advances in central Somalia with the capture of Galaad and El Dher towns in the central Somali province of Galgadud.

Reports from Gedo province said the allied forces were in pursuit of the rebel forces who had reportedly retreated to the nearby towns.

The capture of Beled Hawo came after weeks of reports of military maneuvers by the Somali government forces and allied fighters from the Ahlu Sunna, at the border area with Kenya and Ethiopia.

Al-Shabaab commanders alleged that troops from neighboring Ethiopia were backing the allied forces of Somali soldiers and sect fighters who they said were trained and armed in neighboring countries, a charge strongly denied by both sides.

The moderate Suffi sect members, who formed the Ahlu Sunna forces, last year took up arms against Al-Shabaab fighters after it was angered by destruction of the tombs of revered Muslim scholars from the sect and preventing them from visiting the graves of the scholars by Al-Shabaab who said the visits to the tombs were tantamount to worshiping them.

Leaders of the sect which now controls much of two main central Somali provinces announced their alliance with the Somali government and vowed to fight along with the Somali government forces and African Union peacekeepers since taking arms against the hard-line Islamist insurgent movements in Somalia.

Source: Xinhua

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