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Insurgents Seize Control of Strategic Somali Port City


Witnesses in Somalia say Islamist insurgents have reclaimed control of the strategic port city Kismayo, dealing a blow to the country's interim government.

Residents say the militants seized Kismayo Friday after three days of heavy fighting with a local clan militia. The gun battles left at least 55 people dead and 100 others wounded.

Kismayo is an important coastal city south of the capital, Mogadishu.

A local militia, not the interim government, had run the town, but its fall to the militants is a loss in the government's battle for control of the country.

Somali government soldiers backed by Ethiopian troops have been fighting the insurgents since late 2006, when a hardline Islamist movement was pushed from power in southern and central Somalia.

The interim government signed a peace deal with a moderate opposition faction on Monday. But insurgents and opposition hard-liners have rejected the deal and vowed to continue fighting.

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

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