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Somalis flee town amid fighting

Angola Press
Saturday, July 26, 2008

MOGADISHU (Angola Press) - Most of the residents of a town in Somalia have now fled after clashes between Ethiopian forces and Somali Islamist fighters.

At least 19 people have died in the fighting in Beledweyne, which broke out on Thursday and continued on Friday.

Ethiopian troops came under attack from insurgents in the town, 350km (210 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu.

Residents said the clashes raged for a second day with the rival sides firing artillery shells at each other.

Ethiopian forces seized a bridge in the centre of the town, which was later recaptured by insurgents - in a round of heavy artillery shelling.

Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that a million people will go hungry in Somalia next month unless naval escorts are found for a ship carrying food aid currently in South Africa.

According to one estimate, more than 8,000 civilians have been killed and one million forced from their homes since the start of last year by fighting between the interim government and Islamist insurgents.

Somalia has experienced almost constant civil conflict since the collapse of Mohamed Siad Barre`s regime in January 1991.

Successive droughts have left an estimated 2.5 million in need of food aid.

The UN expects that figure to rise sharply if droughts and insecurity continue.

Source: Angola Press, July 26, 2008