Somalia Jihad Update. “39 killed in Somalia fighting: residents,” by Mustafa Haji Abdinur for Agence France-Presse, July 1:
MOGADISHU (AFP) – At least 39 people were killed on Tuesday in fighting that erupted when Islamist insurgents attacked Somali, Ethiopian and African Union forces in the capital and central region, residents said.
The clashes, some of the most serious in months, came a week before a deadline for the implementation of a truce agreement signed by rival factions last month in Djibouti was due to expire.
Thirteen civilians were killed in three southern Mogadishu districts after more than two hours of clashes punctuated by machine-gun fire, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. […]
Sheikh Abdirahim Isse, a spokesman for the insurgents, confirmed the Mataban clashes and claimed the Ethiopians had suffered heavy losses.
“There was heavy fighting today and the Ethiopian forces suffered huge losses. Many of them were killed and their armed vehicles destroyed,” Isse told AFP by phone from an unknown location.
The Ethiopian army, which rarely comments about such incidents, has pledged to pull out once the United Nations deploys a peacekeeping force to bolster an embattled African Union peacekeeping force confined to Mogadishu.
Since they were ousted from power last year, the Islamists have waged a bitter guerrilla war, focused on Ethiopian, government and African Union targets almost daily.
According to several international rights groups and aid agencies, the fighting has left at least 6,000 civilians dead and displaced hundreds of thousands in the last 12 months alone.
On June 9, the Somali government and its political opposition signed agreements, including a ceasefire scheduled to enter into force within 30 days, but a radical wing of the Islamist fighters called Shebab has refused to recognise it.
Additionally: “Somalia: Somali Islamic Courts Spokesman Cited On Takeover of Three Towns,” by Abdinasir Mohamed Guled for Shabelle Media Network, July 1:
The Islamic Courts union spokesman says that their fighters took control of three important cities in central and southwestern Somalia.
The cities are (Huddur), Wajid, and Balad Weyn. This has been confirmed by residents of these cities and tribal officials.
The spokesman also said that the fighters of the Islamic Courts attacked the strategic city of Huddur in the southwestern part of the country with RPGs, targeting the headquarters of the Somali Government in the city.
He added that the attack also targeted the house of the governor of the Bakol region “who escaped miraculously on foot after he suffered medium wounds, while three of his guards were killed and five others were wounded.” […]
Eyewitnesses in the same city said that the Islamic Courts forces withdrew from Huddur City, two hours after taking it over, and headed for Wajid City, which they also seized yesterday afternoon without significant clashes. […]
Members of the Courts have held negotiations with tribal officials and representatives of the World Food programme Organization.
The negotiations ended in the release of two Swedish hostages. A source of the Courts said that the two Swedes were arrested in Huddur City out of fear for their safety.
The spokesman of the Courts denied that the arrest of the two foreign [Swedish] workers is a kidnapping.
He noted that the arrest “is only meant to save their lives and lest it should be said that the Courts was behind causing any harm to them, even if by hostile parties.”
Islamic Courts forces entered Balad Weyn City, capital of the Hiran region in central Somalia, yesterday morning and took control of all government headquarters in it. Senior leaders in the Courts have addressed the residents of the city and asked them to be calm and not to loot government headquarters. […]
The Islamic Courts has been waging guerrilla warfare against the Somali Government and the Ethiopian forces for more than a year.
The Courts adopt the policy of lightning takeover of cities, which they seize for a short time.
Its strength has noticeably increased recently, at a time when the Somali Government is losing control over important areas and cities in the central and southern parts of the country.