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Islamic Fighters Retreat In Somalia

Witnesses in Somalia say Islamist fighters have retreated from front-line positions after coming under heavy attack by government and Ethiopian forces.

Residents in the town of Daynuney - just south of the transitional government headquarters in Baidoa - told the Associated Press troops loyal to the Council of Islamic Courts movement withdrew more than 50 kilometers Tuesday to the southeast.

Witnesses said Islamic forces also abandoned their main stronghold in Bur Haqaba and were forming convoys headed toward the capital, Mogadishu.

Islamist officials described the move as a "tactical retreat."

The withdrawal follows heavy bombing Monday by Ethiopian jets of the country's two main international airports. Both were under control of the Islamists since June, when they routed a U.S.-backed warlord alliance in Mogadishu.

Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi told VOA Monday that Ethiopian troops are in Somalia to support his transitional government. He also said there are 5,000 Eritrean soldiers in the country aiding the Islamists.

The fighting in Somalia broke out last Tuesday, after months of rising tension as the Islamists took over much of the country's center and south.

Ethiopia sent forces into Somalia after the Islamists declared a holy war against the nation.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

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