Somali insurgents capture Balad

Published on Monday 7th April 2008

Somalia, Apr 7: Islami Insurgents have taken control of a Somali trading post after heavy fighting that saw government forces escape into the countryside.


The Islamists wrested control of the town of Balad, 30 kilometres (19 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu, said Mohamed Abshir, a government official. He siad, "they took control of the town forcefully after fighting with government forces. There were casualities but I do not know how many," AFP report said. Several witnesses confirmed the takeover of the town, which the Islamists lost when Ethiopian forces entered the country to help bolster the government in late 2006. "There was heavy fighting in Balad today," said Balad resident Ugas Mohamed. "I saw heavily-armed Islamist fighters in the town chanting 'Allahu Akbar' -- God is Great. They took control of the town and the government forces fled to the countryside," he added. On December 31, Somali Islamists took control of the central town of Buulo Burte, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) north of Mogadishu, after clashes with government forces that left 11 people dead. Days earlier, they briefly took control of Jowhar township, 90 kilometres (55 miles) north of Mogadishu, looted government vehicles and offices and released prisoners from jail. Over the past year, the insurgents have attacked government targets after being ousted from the southern and central regions by Ethiopian-backed Somali troops in early 2007. The Islamists, accused of ties with Muslim extremist groups, have taken control of towns in the recent months in an apparent show of their determination to regain power in the country of nine million people. The government, formed in Kenya in October 2004, has been trying to launch peace talks in a bid to save the Horn of Africa nation, but it has yet to make convincing progress. The guerrilla fighting has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee mainly from Mogadishu, which has been the epicentre of the clashes. Somalia has lacked an effective government since the 1991 ousting of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, which paved the way for factional clashes that have defied numerous bids to restore stability.