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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 18:34 GMT 19:34 UK
Bossasso falls to Somali warlord
Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, one of two men claiming the presidency of Somalia's autonomous state of Puntland, has seized the region's commercial capital Bossasso, following a three-day sweep across the region.

Traditional elders and women's groups welcomed Colonel Yusuf at the gates of Bossasso

Ismail Warsame, spokesman for Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed

Bossasso was the last remaining stronghold of Jama Ali Jama, who was chosen by clan elders in November to replace Abdullahi Yusuf as president.

Colonel Yusuf's offensive began on Monday near his southern stronghold of Garoweh, and spread quickly north.

On Tuesday his forces captured the town of Qardho.

Ultimate prize

"Traditional elders and women's groups welcomed Colonel Yusuf at the gates of Bossasso, " the spokesman for Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, Ismail Warsame, told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"They escorted him to the presidential palace and he (Colonel Yusuf) plans to stay there for a long time."

He denied any Ethiopian invovlement in Colonel Yusuf's push for Bossasso.

Puntland fighter
Puntland militiamen had Bossasso in their sights

"Ethiopian troops did not help Colonel Yusuf and did not encourage him to attack Bossasso.

"There is no fighting in Bossasso now."

Bossasso appears to have fallen without a fight.

Elders arranged for Colonel Yusuf's entry into the city rather than allow it to be damaged.

Ali Jama fled the city by car, and when it became clear that he was not about to make a stand local officials changed sides.

Bossasso is home to 70,000 residents and is critical to the finances of Puntland.

Taxes from exports of sheep, goats and camels to Dubai and Kuwait, as well as duties levied on imports of cars and electrical goods, pay for the running of the region.

Bitter rivalry

Last year a congress of elders elected Jama Ali Jama as the new head of Puntland, but this was immediately rejected by Colonel Yusuf, who described the vote as futile and illegal.

He accused supporters of the transitional government in Mogadishu of being involved in the leadership change, although it is not clear whether Mr Jama is any more sympathetic to Mogadishu than Colonel Yusuf.

The autonomous region was created in 1998, partly to avoid the violence that has plagued Somalia which had been without a central government since 1991.

A new interim government came to power in Somalia last year, but has so far failed to impose its authority on the country.

Ismail Haji Warsame talking to BBC Network Africa
"Abdullahi Yusuf is in full control of Puntland"
See also:

23 Nov 01 | Africa
Somali leader promises battle
21 Nov 01 | Africa
Fierce fighting in Puntland
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