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Somali Islamists Seize Town as Fighting Continues in Capital


Reports from Somalia say hard-line Islamist fighters have seized a town from government troops and continued their attacks in the capital Mogadishu.

Residents and elders in the town of Hudur, northwest of Mogadishu, say fighters from the Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab took control of the town Wednesday after a fierce gun battle. At least 17 people have been reported killed.

Meanwhile, gun and artillery fire continue to be reported in the capital, where insurgents are attacking African Union peacekeepers and government forces. A local human rights group reports at least 29 people were killed in fighting on Tuesday.

Local Islamic clerics have issued statements condemning the fighting. The clerics have been attempting to mediate talks between Islamic fighters and the new Somali government led by President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed.

The president returned to Mogadishu Monday from Djibouti, where the government has based itself for security reasons.

Meanwhile, the recent attacks on peacekeepers in Somalia has prompted Nigeria to reconsider a planned deployment of troops there. The Nigerian government had pledged 850 officers and soldiers to the African Union mission in Somalia. The mission currently consists of about 3,500 soldiers from Uganda and Burundi.

On Sunday, a suspected suicide bombing at an AU peacekeeping base in Mogadishu killed 11 soldiers from Burundi. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mogadishu remains torn by violence despite a recent peace deal between the government and moderate Islamists.

Al-Shabab controls large areas of southern Somalia, while the government controls only parts of Mogadishu. Al-Shabab says it wants to end corruption and insecurity, and impose Islamic law.

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

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