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Somali insurgents overrun government bases; 7 killed
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MOGADISHU, Somalia: Insurgents briefly overran two government bases Thursday after hours of fighting killed at least seven people, including a 7-year-old boy, witnesses said.

The insurgent attack was the latest brazen move by fighters linked to an Islamic extremist group that was driven out in December 2006 by Somalia's Western-backed government and its Ethiopian allies.

In recent weeks, the insurgents have taken over government positions, marched into towns and even released prisoners from jail before retreating.

"Insurgents were firing machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, and the soldiers were using mortars and heavy artillery," said Shuceyb Ali, a resident of the capital, Mogadishu.

She and other witnesses said the insurgents drove government soldiers from two bases before retreating.

About 20 people were being treated for wounds at two hospitals in the capital, officials said. A 7-year-old boy died of his wounds at Medina Hospital, said Fadumo Osman, a nurse.

Somalia has been ravaged by violence and anarchy since warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on one another. The current government — formed with U.N. help in 2004 — has struggled to assert any real control.

On Wednesday, Islamic militants here welcomed being added to the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations, saying they only wished the designation had come sooner.

SOURCE: AP, March 20, 2008

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