8 Militants Killed in Somali Fighting

The Associated Press
Sunday, June 3, 2007; 5:59 AM

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- At least eight foreign and an unspecified number of Somali Islamic militants were killed in fighting with Somali government forces and during bombardment from a U.S. warship on a remote, mountainous northeastern area, officials said Sunday.

The fight against Islamic militants in Somalia has moved to the relatively peaceful northeast of the country. Somali government forces and their allies have previously fought the militants only in the country's south.

"Foreign fighters, Somali militants and members of the international terrorists including British nationals, Americans, Swedish, Pakistanis and Yemenis were killed in separate operations carried out by Puntland troops and U.S. navy forces," said a Sunday statement by the government of the semiautonomous northeastern region of Puntland.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, asked Sunday to comment on the reported U.S. naval bombardment in northeastern Somalia, said, "That's possibly an ongoing operation." Therefore, he added, he would not comment.

Gates is in Singapore for a conference on security issues affecting the Asia-Pacific region.

The Puntland government statement said the militants were "defeated," in Friday's battles, but did not give details about either the number of casualties or their identities.

Information Minister Mohamed Abdulrahman Banga told journalists Sunday that they were waiting for more information from the security officials in the area where the fighting took place before releasing more details.

On Saturday, however, Puntland Vice President Hassan Dahir Mohamoud told The Associated Press that his government's troops killed eight foreign Islamic militants and five of them came from Britain, Eritrea, Sweden, the U.S. and Yemen.

Security forces identified them from their passports, said Mohamoud, speaking from the Puntland capital, Garowe. He said the remaining three could not be immediately identified.

Puntland Finance Minister Mohamed Ali Yusuf told journalists on Sunday that they will only release the identities of the foreigners once they completed investigations.

Mohamoud said that there were no civilian casualties because the area is uninhabited. Earlier reports had said the fighting took place in a village, and it is not clear why there was the discrepancy.

He said his government asked for the U.S. navy to help them, but he did not give details why Puntland wanted such assistance.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Associated Press