Militant Islamist fighters on Sunday captured a strategic town north of Somalia capital Mogadishu leaving at least seven people dead, sources said.
“Al Shabaab captured Jowhar after serious fighting on Sunday morning,” resident Ismail Farah told Reuters. “At least seven people including four civilians died.”
The town that links the capital to the volatile central region where clashes since Friday killed 68 people, is 90 km from Mogadishu and the hometown of the president.
On Friday and Saturday, fighting between Shabaab and a moderate Islamist group in two central towns killed some 68 people and sent 3,300 others fleeing from their homes, pro-government forces and a rights group said.
“We have killed 47 al Shabaab fighters including a white man in Mahas and Wabho,” Sheikh Abdullahi Sheikh Abu Yusuf, spokesman of the moderate Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca, told Reuters. “From our side, three died and 10 were injured. We shall continue fighting to uproot al Shabaab.”
The anarchic Horn of Africa nation has been hit by some of the worst fighting in months between pro-government forces and the al Shabaab rebels who are bent on toppling President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed’s administration.
The Mogadishu-based Elman Peace and Human Rights organisation said that 18 civilians were killed in those clashes, and that 3,300 people had fled their homes. “Fighting continues non-stop in those areas,” said Yasin Ali Gedi, vice chairman of the group.
Somalia has been without an effective central government since the 1991 ousting of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, and tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions more displaced since then.