Somali Islamists clash with govt-allied troops

 
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MOGADISHU, Nov 12 (Reuters) Troops from a powerful Somali Islamist movement clashed with fighters allied to the interim government and seized a town near the semi-autonomous northern Puntland region, the Islamists said today.

''The government troops ambushed us last night, forcing our troops to push them,'' Islamist spokesman Abdirahman Ali Mudey said. ''They forced us to take their biggest base in Bandiradley, near Galkaayo.'' There was no independent confirmation of the clash.

The government forces were led by warlord Abdi Awale Qaybdiid, whom the Islamists ejected from Mogadishu in July after defeating him and his US-backed allies who had controlled the capital for years.

Mudey had no information on casualties, and a government spokesman said it would not issue a statement until later.

It is the second clash between the two sides in the region since Monday, in what many fear will become all-out war that will suck in Horn of Africa rivals Ethiopia and Eritrea, who are backing the government and Islamists respectively.

REUTERS SP HT1342

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