Somali govt troops capture Islamist refuge: govt

Saturday, January 13, 2007; 1:51 AM

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somali government troops, backed by Ethiopian forces, have captured a southern refuge of fleeing Islamists after several weeks of open warfare, government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari said on Saturday.

"The government took over the last Islamist stronghold of Ras Kamboni yesterday evening after fighting in the morning," he said, referring to the coastal village near the Kenyan border where many fugitive Islamists were believed to be holed up.

"Most of the wanted terrorists have either died or fled. They are hiding in the forests ... Government forces are still chasing them. We will not stop the chase until we are sure they are totally eliminated."

Ethiopian troops, tanks and planes helped the Somali interim government drive out Islamists in several weeks of open warfare, allowing the administration to break free from its provincial outpost Baidoa to end six months of Islamist rule across much of south Somalia.

Washington sent a warplane into Somalia on Monday to try to kill top al Qaeda suspects and Ethiopian aircraft have pounded the area for days in an attempt to finish a war that began before Christmas.

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