Thu, Jan 04, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Somali government claims victory

LAST GASP Officials said the insurgents were holed up in Ras Kamboni, where authorities boosted aerial and ground patrols to ensure they do not sneak over

AFP , MOGADISHU

Somalia's government claimed on Tuesday to have full control of territory wrested from Islamists with Ethiopia's military help, as two Ethiopian soldiers were killed in an ambush in the country's southern region.

In Kenya, President Mwai Kibaki urged his Somali counterpart Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed to resume peace talks with the Islamists, who still pose a security threat despite defeat, in order to achieve stability.

As militia fighters took no notice of orders to turn in their weapons in the capital, an Islamist attacked an Ethiopian camp in southern Somalia town of Jilib, killing two Ethiopian soldiers and another one wounded.

Local officials and residents said said the gunman emerged from a jungle and opened fire at an Ethiopian camp in Jilib, about 100km north of the key port town of Kismayo, which the Islamists lost on Monday.

"The first insurgency attack has been carried out," said Mohamoud Dahir Farah, the chairman of the local authority.

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi appealed to the world to fund his military intervention in Somalia, pledging to withdraw his troops within weeks.

"We don't have the money to take the burden individually. The international community should provide funding," Meles told parliament, adding that the cost of the campaign had been "huge."

Somalia's Information Minister Ali Jama told reporters that his government now controlled the southern port town of Kismayo, the Islamists' last stronghold, ending a dramatic military campaign that was spearheaded by Ethiopian tanks, warplanes and infantry units.

Officials said the Islamists were holed up in Ras Kamboni, a dense forest on the border with Kenya, where authorities boosted aerial and ground patrols to ensure they do not sneak over.

Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said Kenya had arrested at least 11 Islamist fighters. Kenya said only eight had been detained.

Officials said around 4,000 Somali refugees were stranded on the Somali side of the border after Kenyan authorities refused them entry on security grounds.

Kenyan officials said four Ethiopian helicopters pursuing the Islamists missed their target and bombed a Kenyan border post, prompting Kenyan fighter planes to rush to the area.

A top Kenyan police official, who requested to remain unnamed, told reporters that the helicopters targeted the Somali town of Dhobley, about 3km from the frontier line, only to end up dropping bombs on Kenya's Har Har border post.

There was no immediate mention of the casualties and damage on the grounds hit.

The Islamists, who are accused of links to al-Qaeda, have conceded defeat after nearly two weeks of clashes, but vowed to wage a guerrilla war against rival troops.

Somalia disintegrated into lawlessness after the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. It was carved up among clan warlords, some of whom now back the government.

Gedi had vowed to relocate his government from Baidoa, a regional outpost in south central Somalia, to the capital, where Tuesday saw the failed start of a three-day voluntary disarmament drive.

Residents laughed off the notion of Mogadishu's rival militias turning in weapons and journalists visited one arms collection point but found only officials, who vowed to enforce the ban later on, as Gedi had warned.

"My gun is my profession, I have nothing else to do," Mohamed Emir Abdi, 22, a local militia fighter, told reporters. "Anybody who needs the gun in my hand should give me money. Otherwise any attempt to get it by force will be disastrous."

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