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Somalia rebels battle pirates, government troops

By the CNN Wire Staff
Islamist rebels are battling pirates in central Somalia, as well as fighting government troops in Mogadishu.
Islamist rebels are battling pirates in central Somalia, as well as fighting government troops in Mogadishu.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Al-Shabaab fighters were advancing on the pirate's coastal stronghold in Harardhere
  • Pirates recently captured a boat loaded with weapons intended for the militia
  • Clash between al-Shabaab fighters and government forces left at least 10 people dead, 40 hurt
RELATED TOPICS
  • Pirates
  • Somalia
  • Hobyo (Somalia)

Mogadishu, Somalia (CNN) -- Islamist rebels advanced on a pirate haven in central Somalia and battled government troops in Mogadishu in a clash that killed at least 10 people, ambulance crews and a local journalist reported Sunday.

Fighters from the al Qaeda-linked militia al-Shabaab were advancing on Harardhere, the pirate stronghold on the Somali coast, a local journalist in contact with pirate sources told CNN. The pirates recently captured a boat loaded with weapons from Yemen that were intended for the militia, and had stopped paying bribes to the Islamists, said the journalist, whose identity is not being disclosed for security reasons.

The journalist said a spokesman for al-Shabaab, which is trying to topple Somalia's U.N.-backed transitional government, said the Islamists are only a few kilometers from Harardhere. The journalist reported that the pirates appeared to be retreating from Harardhere to the port town of Hobyo, Somalia with their captured ships.

No further details were immediately available, and the European Union naval force that patrols the waters off Somalia said it had no information about the situation.

U.N. reports have found that Yemen is a source for arms shipments into Somalia despite a longstanding U.N. embargo on weapons. The Yemeni government, which is battling its own al Qaeda uprising, has attempted to crack down on arms dealing within its territory but also faces an influx of Somali refugees.

The advance on Harardhere, about 430 km (270 miles) north of Mogadishu, came the same day a clash between al-Shabaab fighters and government forces left at least 10 people dead and 40 wounded, ambulance crews reported. Heavy shelling followed an attempt by government troops to ambush al-Shabaab fighters, witnesses reported.

Al-Shabaab has ties to al Qaeda and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, but it has taken control of much of Mogadishu and southern Somalia.

The fighting has escalated a long-running humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa nation, which has not had an effective central government since 1991.

Journalist Mohammed Amiin Adow contributed to this report.