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16 Somalis Killed in Clashes Between Islamist Fighters, Government Forces

Officials and witnesses in central Somalia say fighting between Islamist insurgents and government forces has killed at least 16 people.

Local elders tell VOA Somali service that both insurgents and soldiers were killed in Thursday's clash in Adado, a town in the Galgadud region.

Witnesses say al-Shabab insurgents attacked two government checkpoints. The elders say the insurgents have fled the area but other reports say the fighters are still present.

Separately, insurgents attacked the governor of Somalia's Bay region, Abdifitah Mohamed Ibrahim, in the town of Qansah Dhere Thursday. The governor survived, but officials say two bodyguards and a civilian were killed.

In the central Hiran region, witnesses say Islamist insurgents have taken over the town of Jalalaqsi after government forces abandoned their posts. Also in Hiran, witnesses say Islamist fighters returned to Buulo Burde last night, after Ethiopian troops backing the government pulled out.

Islamist insurgents have seized control of several Somali towns in recent weeks. The insurgents usually withdraw voluntarily after freeing prisoners.

The insurgents are linked to the Islamic Courts Union which controlled much of southern Somalia in 2006 before being driven from power by Somalia's government and Ethiopian troops.

Fighting between the insurgents and pro-government forces has killed thousands of Somalis over the past 16 months.

Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) says it has closed its operation in the southern town of Kismayo, after three staff members were killed by a roadside bomb in January.

An official with the organization, Arjan Hehenkamp, said Kismayo has a significant need for humanitarian assistance, but that the organization can not continue working in a place where its staff have been deliberately targeted and killed.

He said Doctors Without Borders would continue to provide medical care to Somalis in other parts of the country.

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