Damien Pearse and agencies
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 10 March 2012 16.18 GMT
At least 23 people have been killed in an attack on Ethiopian troops by al-Qaida-linked Somali insurgents near the two countries’ border.
Residents in Yurkud village said the battle lasted several hours. Mohamed Hussein said he had seen at least 17 dead fighters from the al-Shabab insurgency lying on the ground after the battle stopped.
“We have never seen fighting as tough as that,” he added.
Another local, Ali Barre, said he had seen six dead Ethiopian soldiers in uniform being carried past his house. The insurgents had been forced to retreat, he said.
“We have killed 73 Ethiopian soldiers and recovered 20 guns,” said an al-Shabab spokesman, Sheik Abdiaziz Abu-Musab. He said five al-Shabab fighters had been killed. The militants frequently exaggerate their victories and downplay their casualties, while the Ethiopian military never releases information on casualties.
Ethiopian troops moved into the border regions of Somalia this year as part of a three-pronged attack on the insurgency. Kenyan troops crossed into the south, and African Union troops backing the weak UN-backed government have wrested back control of the capital, Mogadishu.
Although the government has international support, it is unclear if it is able to tackle corruption and provide services or security to the war-weary population.
Somalia has been racked by civil war for more than 20 years, ever since clan warlords overthrew a socialist dictator in 1991.
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