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Friday, 2 August, 2002, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Fighting erupts in Puntland

At least two were killed on Friday after fighting broke out again between gunmen loyal to rival leaders in Somalia's north-eastern region of Puntland.


They have been robbing the commuters and extorting money from all kinds of people

Ismael Hajji Warsameh
Sporadic fighting is said to be continuing between forces loyal to the current President, Colonel Abdullahi Yussuf Ahmed, and men supporting the ousted leader, Jama Ali Jama.

Colonel Yussuf, who is said to be receiving military and logistical support from neighbouring Ethiopia, declared Puntland to be an autonomous region in August 1998.

His rival, Mr Jama, is supported by the Transitional National Government in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

The Puntland region has avoided most of the violence that destroyed much of southern Somalia following the removal from power of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

Bandits

According to the information reaching Mogadishu, fighting began the forces of Colonel Yussuf attacked three villages outside the north-eastern port town of Bossaso on Friday morning.

However, the director of the presidency in Puntland, Ismael Hajji Warsameh, said the regional government forces had attacked "bandits" who had erected illegal roadblocks along the road to Qardho town.

Qardho has been Mr Jama's main support base since he was ousted from Bossaso.

Puntland fighter
There has been sporadic fighting between rival groups since November

"They have been robbing the commuters, extorting money from all kinds of people and they made the road linking Bossaso and Garoweh town almost impassable," Mr Warsameh said.

He said that the operation will continue until his forces reach Galkaio, some 750km south of Bossaso.

Government forces arrested 50 bandits and captured nine battle wagons, Mr Warsameh said.

He claimed that many of the bandits were killed while the rest fled.

He also said government forces lost two fighters and more than 10 of their men were wounded.

The figures could not be verified by independent sources.

A former finance minister for Jama Ali Jama, who has a satellite telephone in a remote village, confirmed that the fighting took place, adding that his men were attacked by Colonel Yussuf's gunmen.

There has been sporadic fighting between the two men's forces since Mr Jama replaced Colonel Yussuf as the semi-autonomous region's president last November.

In May, Colonel Yussuf's men captured Bossaso and other key towns, forcing Mr Jama and his supporters to flee.


Politics

Terrorist haven?

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08 May 02 | Africa
23 Nov 01 | Africa
21 Nov 01 | Africa
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