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At least 17 killed in western Somalia fighting: elders

Islamist insurgents battled government forces in western Somalia and at least 17 people, mainly combatants, were killed, elders said today, as both sides claimed victory.

world Updated: Sep 21, 2009 21:09 IST

Islamist insurgents battled government forces in western Somalia and at least 17 people, mainly combatants, were killed, elders said today, as both sides claimed victory.

The fighting broke out last evening when fighters from the Shebab, an Al-Qaeda-inspired group that controls much of southern Somalia, attacked government forces in the town of Yet on the border with Ethiopia.

"We are getting that 17 people, mainly combatants, died in the fighting and some vehicles were destroyed," Ali Moalim Kerow, an elder in the nearby town of Rabdhure, told AFP.

A local aid worker speaking on condition of anonymity gave a similar death toll but warned that it could rise.

The Shebab claimed victory in their battle with government forces but local residents said today that it was unclear who controlled the town after the previous night's fighting.

"We took control of the town after defeating the remnants of the apostate government who were planning attacks against us," Sheikh Hassan Mohamed, a Shebab commander for Hodur district, told AFP.

"Many of their dead are strewn in the streets of the town and our forces pulled out this morning," he said.

The Shebab commander said insurgent forces attacked government troops that had previously retreated from the city of Baidoa, further south, where the transitional administration's parliament was based.