Somali Islamists seize town Near Ethiopian Border

February 25, 2009

“The mujahideen (fighters) took control of Hodur and the situation in the town is calm,” top Shebab commander Sheikh Mukhtar Robow told AFP.

“The town has fallen to the Shebab fighters and there is no fighting inside the town now,” local elder Adan Mohamed Yunus said, adding that he had no word on casualties.

Another resident said there was heavy fighting before the Somali government forces fled.

“There was heavy fighting in the town this morning and the Somali government forces fled after the fighting and the Shebab are controlling the town now,” said Mohamed Dirie, a Hodur resident.

Deadly attacks

The Shebab, a former military youth wing of an Islamist movement ousted by Ethiopia-backed Somali forces two years ago, had carried out relentless attacks against the Ethiopian forces who withdrew from Somalia last month.

In recent months, the Shebab have also launched operations against rival Somali factions and conquered large swathes of territory, leaving government forces in control of little more than a handful of blocks in Mogadishu.

Islamist forces opposed to UN-sponsored reconciliation efforts in Somalia have launched several deadly attacks against the government and African Union forces in recent days.

The attacks were seen as a warning to the troubled country’s new president, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a former Islamist rebel leader who has pledged to stabilise Somalia.