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Somali Insurgent Leader Denies Reports of Death

A major Somali insurgent leader has denied reports of his possible death, saying he will hold a news conference on Monday.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys spoke to VOA's Somali service Sunday, just hours after Reuters news agency reported that he may be dead.

Reuters based its report on a family member and a pro-government militia that said its fighters shot Aweys during battles in the central town of Wabho on Friday.

But Aweys told VOA that he is in good health, though the interviewer said the insurgent leader sounded slow and less authoritative than usual.

The interview took place on the condition that there be no recording of Aweys' voice.

Meanwhile, gunmen in the Somali capital have killed the director of one of Somalia's most popular broadcasters, Radio Shabelle. Witnesses say Moktar Mohamed Hirab was shot several times in the head Sunday.

Another journalist who was with Hirab was wounded and taken to a hospital.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Violence in Somalia escalated about a month ago, when militant Islamists led by the al-Shabab group launched an offensive against government positions in Mogadishu.

The United Nations says the fighting has displaced some 86,000 people from the city.

On Friday, the fighting spread to Wabho, where al-Shabab and Aweys' group Hizbul Islam battled a moderate Islamist group, Ahla Sunna Waljamaca. Witnesses say at least 64 people were killed in that fighting.

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