- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 18, 2009

SOMALIA

Police chief among dead

MOGADISHU | Somali government forces attacked rebel strongholds in Mogadishu on Wednesday, triggering battles that killed at least 17 people, including the capital’s police chief, witnesses and officials said.

Residents cowered in their homes or took cover behind buildings as mortars slammed into the city.

Islamist fighters wearing head scarves and ammunition belts draped over their shoulders were seen arriving from the outskirts of the capital to join the battle.

The government only controls a few blocks of Mogadishu with the help of an African Union peacekeeping force that guards the air and sea ports and other key government installations.

Different Islamic insurgent groups control the rest of Mogadishu, and their goal is to topple Somalia’s Western-backed government and install a strict Islamic state.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

18 killed in clash of rebels, soldiers

BANGUI | The government in the Central African Republic said Wednesday that 15 rebels and three soldiers were killed in recent fighting in the northwest of the country.

Junior Defense Minister Jean-Francis Bozize, who is the son of President Francois Bozize, said the casualty toll from Friday “comes to three dead on the side of the regular forces and 15 killed among the armed bandits” near the town of Ndele.

He dismissed an earlier claim by the rebels of the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace that they had killed 24 soldiers in the fighting and that the army had started the fighting.

Mr. Bozize said the rebels’ attack was in revenge for the continued detention of their leader, former Minister of Mines and Agriculture Charles Massi, who was arrested in May in neighboring Chad, where he is still being held.

MALI

Forces attack hostage cell

BAMAKO | Malian security forces have killed about 20 suspected al Qaeda fighters in a raid near the Algeria border targeting a cell thought to have executed a British hostage, security sources said Wednesday.

The attack Tuesday at Garn-Akassa, west of the Tessalit oasis in Mali’s north, was the first time the army specifically targeted al Qaeda members on Malian turf.

The attack targeted al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which claims close ties to al Qaeda and emerged out of the Algerian fundamentalist Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat.

During the raid, government soldiers captured the base, a security source said, adding that soldiers counted 26 bodies of suspected al Qaeda fighters killed in the raid. An independent source confirmed the raid, but disputed the number of casualties, saying only 16 were killed.

GAMBIA

Journalists held for criticizing leader

BANJUL | A media watchdog group is calling on Gambia to release seven journalists detained this week after criticizing the nation’s president, who has ruled the tiny country since a 1994 coup.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said late Tuesday the detainees include the head of the West African nation’s press union and newspapermen who together criticized President Yahya Jammeh over the unsolved 2004 killing of local newspaper editor Deyda Hydara.

The government did not immediately comment about the journalists, who were detained Monday.

The Jammeh government has been criticized for years because of its harsh treatment of the media, and many reporters have fled the country.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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