Somali gov't sweeps into insurgent stronghold in Mogadishu

14:54, July 29, 2011      

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The Somali government forces backed by the African Union peacekeeping troops on Thursday launched a major offensive against Islamist rebels, leaving at least 21 dead and dozens of others wounded, officials said.

The security sweep was launched against Islamist positions in the north of the Somali capital Mogadishu and government military commanders said their forces took over large swathes of the rebel held territory including the main Bakara Market.

Senior Somali army commander Colonel Abdulahi Ali Anod told state-run radio that 15 of the rebel militias were killed and "dozens" more injured in the offensive against the insurgents in Mogadishu.

The state radio said that large parts of the Islamist al Shabaab strongholds including key positions in north of the city were also seized by the government forces.

"We have so far ferried to hospital 30 injured civilians and our staff spotted 6 dead in various locations in the city," Ali Muse, head of local emergency service told Xinhua.

Al Shabaab has not commented on their losses so far.

The Al Shabaab group is expected to launch a major offensive during the coming Muslim holy month of Ramadan as they did in the past yea. The group has since been experiencing a streak of successive defeats in the face of the government offensive.

Somali government military commanders vowed to continue the offensive against the radical Islamist group until the whole of the capital is liberated ahead of major humanitarian drive by the international community to assist thousands of people who fled from drought-hit southern Somalia.

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