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Clashes between Somalia Islamists, government spread to new fronts


MOGADISHU (AFP) - Heavy fighting between Somali Islamists and Ethiopian-backed government troops has spread to new fronts in central Somalia on the fifth day of deadly clashes, according to both sides.

The near week-long fighting erupted in the Islamist-held Beledweyne and Bandiradley townships, 300 kilometres (190 miles) and 630 kilometres (375 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu, they added.

"This is the heaviest fighting, it started early this morning around Bandiradley area and is still continuing," said Mohamed Mohamoud Jumale, the Islamists' spokesman in the township.

"The fighting has flared up this morning," said Ahmed Nur Indhobur, a government official in Galkayo town, 70 kilometres (45 miles) north of the frontline.

Meanwhile, heavy artillery shells were heard near the government seat of Baidoa and in Burhakaba, controlled by the Islamists, according to residents.

"We don't know what is happening but the sound of the heavy weapons is being heard everywhere in the town and surroundings," said Mohamed Hasan Sahal, a resident of Baidoa, about 250 kilometres (155 miles) northwest of the capital.

Fighting erupted early Wednesday, hours after the expiry of an Islamist-imposed ultimatum for Ethiopia to withdraw the thousands of troops the Islamists say Addis Ababa has deployed in the country.

Ethiopia is supporting Somalia's weakened government against the Islamist forces, which control Mogadishu and much of the rest of the war-ravaged Horn of Africa nation.

Arab League-mediated talks in Khartoum collapsed in November when Islamists refused to negotiate until Ethiopia withdrew its troops. The new clashes have ruined hopes of a possible resumption of talks.

Anti Ethiopia rallies in Somalia as Ethiopian air raid continues

(Mogadishu - Somalia) Thousands of angry people have on Sunday rallied in Somalia capital Mogadishu in protest of the Ethiopian air strikes in parts of Somalia killing civilians.

The people took the streets of Mogadishu forcing all business centers to close down and go for the front against the Ethiopian troops who are fighting with the Islamists in number of fronts in Bay, Hiran and Mudug regions.

Here in Mogadishu, people were very tense and angered by the Ethiopian air strikes on Somalia as most of the local FM radios were airing patriotic songs stirring up the people to die for the defense of the territory against what they called ‘the Ethiopian occupiers’.

The anti Ethiopian rallies have also taken place in Lower Juba and Hiran region in Somalia where the Somalis vowed to go against the Ethiopian invaders.

In Kismayo, the southern port city of Somalia and capital of Lower Juba region, hundreds of pro-Islamist demonstrators gathered at the main public square in the town chanting ant Ethiopia slogans.

In Beledwein, the provincial capital of Hiran in central of Somalia, hundreds of protestors demonstrated their anger over the Ethiopian air strikes on the town vowing to join the war with Ethiopian troops.

Hundreds of volunteers are now registering to join the Islamist declared Jihad on Ethiopia as fighting intensifies more heavily.

The rallies came hours after around eight war planes belonged to Ethiopian air forces raided inside Beleweine and its residential areas targeting Islamist positions to weaken their power and people began fleeing to escape the shelling.

Heavy armed Ethiopian troops backed by war planes and tanks cut off the main Kala-Bayrka road linking Beledwein to central region of Mudug which is a key to Islamic Courts Union fighters.

This aimed to damage the Islamists power and not gain reinforcement.


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