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Somali rebels kill two Britons and two Kenyans

14/04/2008 - 15:06

By Ibrahim Mohamed

JOWHAR, Somalia (Reuters) - Islamist insurgents killed twoBritons and two Kenyans in an overnight raid on a school incentral Somalia, residents said on Monday.

Heavily armed militants from the al Shabaab group alsoattacked the homes of government officials in Baladwayne, asmall town near the Ethiopian border.

"We are terrified because people who were involved ineducating us were killed," said one local man, Nur Muse.

The killings were the latest in a string of hit-and-runraids by rebels who have stopped a Western-backed interimgovernment asserting its authority on the chaotic Horn ofAfrica country.

The militants, who are listed by Washington as a terroristgroup with ties to al Qaeda, had left Baladwayne by morning.

Residents said the two Britons, who were both ethnicSomalis, left their homes in Britain a year ago to build theschool in the remote town.

Abdihakim Mahamud, a nephew of the dead man, identified himas Daud Hassan Ali. He said his uncle's friend, Rehena Ahmed,had been in her 20s. She was shot in the head, while Ali andthe two Kenyan men were shot in the chest.

"Their bodies are lying at the hospital," Mahamud said.

"CROSSFIRE"

A senior commander of the al Shabaab, Mukhtar Ali Robow,said the four victims were killed accidentally in crossfire.

"Our motive was not to kill innocent people," he toldReuters by telephone from an undisclosed location. "Theirguards shot at us and we had to fire back."

The al Shabaab is the militant wing of a sharia courtsgroup that ruled most of southern Somalia for the second halfof 2006.

It is now at the forefront of an Iraq-style insurgency ofambushes, roadside bombings and assassinations targetingPresident Abdullahi Yusuf's government and its Ethiopianallies.

Robow said his fighters had launched more attacks overnightin the capital Mogadishu, which has suffered most of theviolence, including firing rockets at Burundian peacekeepers.

He said the rebels had also seized a pick-up truck mountedwith an anti-aircraft gun during an assault on a policestation.

A spokesman for the Burundian troops, who are part of asmall African Union peacekeeping force, confirmed that a baseat a former university had come under fire, but gave nodetails.

And in the small coastal town of Merka, unknown assailantshurled a grenade into a video hall late on Sunday, witnessessaid, killing five people and wounding at least 15 others.

Analysts say al Shabaab's tactics are to stretch Yusuf'sfragile administration, while avoiding face-to-face fightingwith the well-equipped Ethiopian forces that are supporting it.

Clashes killed 6,500 people last year in the coastalcapital and uprooted hundreds of thousands. Aid agencies saythe 250,000 civilians camped just outside Mogadishu are nowconsidered the biggest group of internally displaced people inthe world.

(Additional reporting by Aweys Yusuf, Abdi Sheikh inMogadishu and Guled Mohamed in Nairobi; Writing by DanielWallis; Editing by Jon Boyle)

(For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say onthe top issues, visit: http://africa.reuters.com/)


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