Islamic insurgents seize key Somali towns – CNN International

November 11th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

An Islamic militia took over two strategic towns in Somalia Tuesday in a territory grab by the strengthening insurgency, a regional commander told CNN. (more…)

An Islamic militia took over two strategic towns in Somalia Tuesday in a territory grab by the strengthening insurgency, a regional commander told CNN.

The al-Shabaab militia seized the cities of Bulo Marer and Quryoley from the U.N.-backed government and its Ethiopian allies. The move gives the group a strategic base in central Somalia, where it also controls Kismayo, the country’s third-largest city.

Al-Shabaab is an offshoot of an Islamic party that ruled much of the country in the second half of 2006 and aims to impose Islamic sharia law in Somalia.

Nur Shekoy Jabril, the commander of government forces in Quryoley, said his troops withdrew from the two towns after they faced being overwhelmed by the al-Shabaab force.

He said al-Shabaab forces were moving toward Merka, another major town in the region where the Untied Nations uses an air strip to fly in supplies for the World Food Programme.

Somalia, which has not had a functioning government since 1991, is in the throes of an Islamic insurgency which is battling for control of the country and the ouster of Ethiopian forces.

A cease-fire between the some of the Islamic fighters and the Somali transitional government takes effect on Wednesday.

The agreement was brokered by the United Nations and the African Union and signed late last month in Djibouti.

It calls for Ethiopian forces — who are supporting the transitional government forces — to withdraw starting on November 21.

It is unclear if the cease-fire will hold as it has already been rejected by Al Shabaab.

Somalia’s lawlessness also spilled onto the seas off the Horn of Africa, where international vessels are routinely hijacked by suspected Somali pirates who demand large ransoms.

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