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Islamic Insurgents Briefly Capture Somali Military Airfield


Reports from Somalia say Islamic insurgents briefly captured the nation's largest military airfield Friday, killing two soldiers and escaping with stolen weapons.

Somali army officials and witnesses say militants attacked the airport at Baledogle, about 100 kilometers south of the capital, Mogadishu. They say the militants relinquished control after seizing weapons that were stored there.

Fighters with the al-Shabaab Islamic rebel group took credit for the attack on local radio.

Islamist insurgents have been battling the Somali government and allied Ethiopian troops for the past year. The fighting has killed thousands and prompted an estimated 600,000 more to flee Mogadishu.

On Wednesday, militants fired mortar rounds near the presidential palace about the same time that African Union Peace and Security Commissioner Sa'id Djinnit met with Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein.

Djinnit presented Somali leaders with a four-point AU peace plan aimed at stopping the fighting. The plan includes a call for greater international involvement in peacekeeping operations.

Djinnit said the 1,800 AU peacekeepers in Mogadishu are doing a "wonderful job." But he accused the international community of abandoning Somalia. Djinnit urged the U.N. Security Council to re-establish a peacekeeping mission.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamad Siad Barre. A number of factions have been fighting each other for control while a transitional government, set up ahead of scheduled elections, tries to assert its authority

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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