Page last updated at 20:10 GMT, Monday, 14 April 2008 21:10 UK

Two Britons murdered in Somalia

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Two British nationals have been killed by Islamist fighters in a town near the Ethiopian border in central Somalia.

The bodies of 70-year-old Birmingham man Daud Hassan Ali, and a 32-year-old UK woman, both thought to be of Somali origin, were found in Beledweyne.

The bodies of two Kenyan teachers were also found at the scene. British officials in Kenya are investigating.

The Islamists reportedly raided an English language school after taking control of the town on Sunday.

'Urgent investigation'

The four bodies were discovered at the Hakab Private English School in the town.

Beledweyne police chief Abdi Aden Adow said two of the dead had British passports and were of Somali origin.

Staff from the High Commission in Nairobi are urgently investigating
Foreign Office spokesman
According to Beledweyne resident Abdi-qani Hashi the fighters arrived late at night, freed prisoners and burned the governor's house before pulling out.

The fighting is part of a guerrilla-style conflict in central Somalia between Islamist militia and government forces backed by Ethiopian troops.

A number of towns have been briefly overrun by militia before they have retreated.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "Staff from the High Commission in Nairobi are urgently investigating but the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are unable to confirm any of the details at present."

Earlier this month, a Briton and a Kenyan working in Somalia for the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation were kidnapped by gunmen on a road between the towns of Bu'aale and Sikow in the southern Juba region.

Military wing

The Beledweyne raid was part of operations by fighters believed to be members of the al-Shabab militants who have been listed as a terrorist organisation by the US government.

Insurgents have carried out attacks since Somalia's Ethiopian-backed transitional government threw out Islamists from the capital Mogadishu in December 2006.

Al-Shabab is the youth and military wing of a group of Sharia courts known as the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which controlled Mogadishu and much of southern and central Somalia up to 2006.

Also involved are militiamen from the Hawiye clan who are violently opposed to the presence of Ethiopian troops on Somali soil, as well as African Union peacekeepers.

Hundreds of thousands of people have already fled the violence, and aid agencies say 20,000 are leaving every month, with more than two million relying on food aid.

The Foreign Office advises against all travel to Somalia.

Somalia has not had a functioning national government for 17 years.

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