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Somali gov't forces retake key central town
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21:05, September 28, 2009

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Somali government forces on Monday retook the strategic central town of Beledweyn after fierce battles with Islamist rebels controlling it, officials said.

The government forces entered the town from different directions, engaging in fierce clashes with insurgent forces in Beledweyn, the provincial capital of central Somalia region of Hiran, 300 km north of Mogadishu.

"We have chased them away and our forces are in pursuit of the anti-peace elements that have been a problem to this town," Mohamed Nur Agajof, spokesman for Somali government forces in Hiran told reporters.

Neither the Somali government official nor insurgent commanders commented on casualty from the fighting but residents said that atleast one combatant was killed and seven people, mostly civilians, were wounded.

Beledweyn, which is an agricultural and trading hub in central Somalia and located close to the border between Somalia and Ethiopia, has changed hands several times between Somali government forces and Islamist rebels.

It was said that fighting was still continuing between the two sides on the outskirts of the town, which has now become the only area under the Somali government's control outside Mogadishu where the beleaguered government backed by African Union peacekeepers, is partially in control.

Insurgent forces control much of southern and central Somalia.

The Somali government and African Union (AU) are seeking the full deployment and a stronger mandate for the 5,000 AU peacekeeping forces in Mogadishu so that they can fight insurgent rebels poised to overthrow internationally recognized Somali government.


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