MOGADISHU: The Somali insurgent group al-Shabaab on Sunday took control of Jowhar, a key strategic town north of Mogadishu, after two hours of fierce fighting, witnesses and town elders said.
"There was fierce fighting at Jowhar's outskirts before al-Shabaab entered Jowhar," Mo'alim Muhidin, an elder in Jowhar, said. "After that, they took full control, including the administration's bases, like the police station."
"They were equipped with machine guns and battle wagons and are now patrolling the streets," he added.
Prior to taking Jowhar, al-Shabaab overcame the pro-government Islamic Courts Union (ICU) militia in Garasaley, 25 km south of Jowhar.
Jowhar, which is 90 km outside Mogadishu and is the hometown of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, links Mogadishu and central Somalia.
Heavy fighting has engulfed north Mogadishu for the last 10 days as insurgents push to end the short reign of moderate Islamist Sheikh Sharif, who the militants say is too close to the West.
Sheikh Sharif, is the UN backed government leader.
I have my doubts he is any more moderate then any of the others, in fact, I would say the label of "moderate" is for the western audience.
Sheikh Sharif along with Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys were part of the former Islamic government that ruled Somalia, prior to overthrow in 2006 by the Ethiopian army at the behest of the US.
This Islamic government had brought a brief period of relative peace and stability to a this area, which is why they had to go.
That government is the one the west never hears about.
But in this interview it is mentioned:
Opposition leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys accused the U.N. special envoy to Somalia on Thursday of "destroying" the Horn of Africa nation, and dismissed talks with the interim government.I wonder what Sheikh Sharif Ahmed hoped to gain by siding with the west?
Aweys is seen as an influential figure among insurgents in Somalia where he has headed numerous Islamist groups since the 1990s including the Islamic Courts Union that controlled Mogadishu and much of the south in 2006 before being ousted by Ethiopian soldiers later that year.
The 62-year-old cleric told Reuters in an interview that U.N. envoy Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah was harming Somalis by only supporting the weak transitional government.
"It is a surprise to see Ould-Abdallah destroying Somalia when he, as a Muslim, has an obligation of being honest of what he has to do for Somalis," Aweys said.
"He consistently defends the government policies as if he is the president of this country, and he is not playing his role of engaging every side of the conflict."
Aweys along with President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed led the ICU, which briefly ushered in a time of stability in Somalia before being ousted in December 2006.