Dozens feared dead as Al-Shabaab attacks Somali border town

2012-11-24 22:09:43 GMT2012-11-25 06:09:43(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

Several people are reported to have been killed and scores of others injured on Saturday after fierce gun battle erupted in southern Somali border town of Bula- Hawa following an attack by suspected Al-Shabaab militia.

The battle for the control of the Somali border town, which is less than 200 meters from Kenya's northern town of Mandera, has also left two Kenyans, including Mandera East Water Officer Mohamed Ali, injured.

The fighting which erupted at around 5 pm local time (1400GMT) was pitting suspected heavily armed Al-Shabaab militia and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) who were in control of the town which was taken over from the insurgents by Somali forces backed by Ethiopian soldiers.

Kenya's Mandera County Commissioner Micheal Ole Tialal said huge number of civilians, largely women and children, and Somali soldiers have crossed to Mandera side of the border after they fled from the heavy fighting.

"Many civilians and TFG soldiers have crossed to the Border Point One in Mandera town. The TFG soldiers and some civilians have now returned back after the fighting has subsided and the attackers repulsed," Tialal said.

"We still have a huge number of Somali refugees who fled from the fighting who are camping on the Border Point One, but we haven' t yet established the number and our chiefs are on the ground to do the count."

Hussein Mahat Abdulle, a resident of Bula-Hawa who spoke on phone, said at least he saw 3 killed persons, 2 with TFG uniform and other body who is believed to be the member of Al-Shabaab assailants.

Abdulle said the attackers also burnt down the entire town, which they held briefly after the overpowered TFG soldiers fled cross the border to Mandera before regrouping and mounted a hard fight back to reclaim the town.

He said 10 civilians were also injured in the fighting and those injured were been taken to Mandera district hospital and other private hospitals in Mandera town.

Tialal said the Mandera East water officer Mohamed Ali sustained slight injuries, after his house which is less than 200 meters from the border was stroked by a stray hand grenade, which completely destroyed the house.

Mandera have repeatedly suffered both loss of property and loss of lives through stray bullets and hand grenades whenever a fighting erupted in Bula-Hawa due to its proximity to the town.

There have also been rising fears among communities living along the porous border with Somalia that the Al-Shabaab group fleeing from the imminent military assault on their last bastion town of Kismayo was likely to turn their frustration on the innocent civilians in a series of revenge attacks.

Panic has gripped border town of Mandera, Liboi and Amuma over the past month as unconfirmed report from Somali indicates that the weakened Al-Shabaab members were withdrawing from port city of Kismayo heading toward southern part of the war-weary country which borders Kenya, a country whose military invasion to flush out Al-Shabaab had served recurrent terror attacks from the militia since October 2011.

Kenya said the deployment of its troops in the southern regions have so far helped to prevent the movement of explosives to the strategic towns of Husingo and Badhade, the conduit points for the Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), the counterfeit electronics and contraband sugar smuggling across the region.

Military officials said these regions are crucial to the stabilization of Kenya's coastal and northeastern provinces, which have been targeted by attackers preying on soft civilian targets.

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