Rebels Claim Defeat of Loyalist Troops
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ Rebels say they have crushed troops loyal to ousted Somali President Mohamed Siad Barre who had regrouped in a northwestern town.
Somalia National Movement radio said Tuesday night that the loyalists were beaten in daylong fighting in and around Borama, a town near Ethiopia’s border.
″The town was heavily shelled by SNM fighters before they entered and engaged the enemy,″ the radio said. ″The enemy force was destroyed, while others surrendered and many were wounded.″
The broadcast was monitored in Nairobi. It was impossible to verify the claim.
The broadcast said 12 rebel fighters were killed and 20 wounded. It did not give casualty figures for the loyalists or indicate their troop strength.
The rebels claimed Tuesday that they ″had taken control of all administrative roles in the northwestern regions.″
Siad Barre fled the capital, Mogadishu, on Jan. 26 when fighters of another rebel group, the United Somalia Congress, stormed his palace. He had ruled the Horn of Africa nation of 8 million people for 22 years.
His whereabouts remain unknown, but Somali exiles in Nairobi claim he is with his clansmen, the Maheran, along Kenya’s border.
The Somalia National Movement began fighting Siad Barre in 1988 and is the oldest of the rebel groups. It is not represented in the interim government of President Ali Mahdi Mohammed, installed Sunday in Mogadishu.
However, Prime Minister Omar Arteh Ghaleb, a former foreign minister who was jailed for years by Siad Barre, is a member of the Isaaq clan from which the National Movement draws its main support.
The United Somalia Congress draws most of its support from central Somalia’s Hawiye clan.
Both of the rebel groups accused Siad Barre’s government of corruption and human rights abuses.
Mohamed Robleh, the London-based Somalia Congress spokesman, today welcomed the National Movement’s claim of victory against loyalist troops in Borama.
″Although they are not represented in the government, they played a major role in overthrowing the former regime,″ Robleh said in a telephone interview. ″We expect them to play a role in the future of our country.″
Mahdi’s government has proposed a meeting on Feb. 28 for all groups that fought Siad Barre to discuss the formation of a provisional government to organize general elections.