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Somali Militants Briefly Seize Control Of Airbase
Mogadishu, January 25, 2008 - Three Somali soldiers were killed Friday when Islamist insurgents attacked a military air base south of Mogadishu and made away with weapons, an army official and an insurgent leader told AFP.
A group of insurgents attacked and briefly seized control of the base at Baledogle, around 90 kilometres (55 miles) west of the capital.
The fighting left three soldiers dead and five wounded, a local Somali military officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"Insurgents attacked our base, there was fighting that killed three of our soldiers. I don't know how many casualties the other side suffered," he said.
An elder from a nearby area confirmed the death toll.
"I saw the three bodies, which were brought to our district. The five wounded were transported to Mogadishu," Hussein Ali Mohammed told AFP.
The elder said the insurgents looted ammunition and weapons from the base.
A spokesman for the insurgents confirmed the attack and claimed that no Islamist fighters were hurt in the fighting.
"Our Islamic warriors briefly took control of the base in Baledogle after fighting the stooges of colonial Ethiopia," Sheikh Muktar Ali Robow told AFP.
"None of our fighters were harmed in the fighting. We did not encounter much resistance on the base," he added.
The spokesman -- also known by his nom de guerre "Abu Mansur" -- is a leader of the Shabab organization, the military wing of the Islamic Courts Union, which briefly controlled large parts of Somalia in 2006.
Ethiopian troops came to the rescue of embattled Somali government forces in late 2006 to oust the Islamist militia but its remnants have since been waging a deadly guerrilla war.
The Islamist insurgents' attacks in recent months have left hundreds of civilians dead and displaced hundreds of thousands from Mogadishu.
A recent report by the African Union warned that Islamist insurgents had recently started expanding their area of operations in a bid to further destabilize stretched and ill-trained Somali forces.
"Over the past weeks, the anti-government forces have spread their activities to regions that were previously peaceful, though not necessarily under government control," said the report, released on January 18.