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12 Islamists, including foreigners, killed in Somali clashes
SOMALI CLASHES: Two Ugandan African Union soldiers patrol near Somali capital Mogadishu's airport, June 2, 2007.
MOGADISHU, June 3, 2007 - At least 12 Islamist fighters, including foreigners were killed in US naval shelling and fighting with forces from the Somali semi-autonomous region of Puntland, officials said Sunday.
Puntland finance minister Mohammed Ali Yusuf said the region's forces crushed the Islamist fighters in mountainous ranges around Bargal town, about 1,250 kilometers (780 miles) northeast of the Somali capital Mogadishu, before a US Navy warship fired into the area.
"Their bodies are lying in the mountainous area and we hope to show them to the media. They [Islamists] have lost in the battle and we killed 12 of them," said a Puntland military commander who requested anonymity.
"We surrounded the whole area and we expected that none of them would flee," the commander added by satellite phone.
Yusuf, meanwhile, told reporters in the northern Somali town of Bosasso: "Our forces defeated the Islamist fighters consisting of Somali and foreign fighters, most of them are dead now and some of them have fled the area. Our forces are fully controlling Bargal."
Citing documents recovered, Yusuf said the foreign "terrorists [were] from America, Britain, Sweden, Morocco, Pakistan, and Yemen."
There was no independent confirmation of the claims on the deaths of the foreigners who arrived in Bargal Wednesday.
Residents said at least 15 people were wounded when a US Navy destroyer Friday fired on several targets in the mountainous terrains outside Bargal, where Al Qaeda operatives as well as Somali Islamists and foreign fighters are believed to have bases.
"The casualty could be far higher than we think. But, so far, we have been told that 15 people were injured in the attack and some of them are nomad civilians," Mohammed Gure, another resident in a village some 30 kilometers from Bargal, said.
Gure said the injured were taken to Bosasso township for treatment.
Duale Hussein Mohammed, an elder in the township, said the US warships also hit a civilian village.
"The American warships hit nomadic residential areas. We think there are more casualties," Duale said.
According to a Cable News Network report, the destroyer from a Djibouti-based anti-terrorism coalition called Combined Task Force 150 was targeting a suspected Al Qaeda operative believed to have been involved in the 1998 attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.
Somalia 's Puntland and neighboring Somaliland regions have declared a form of autonomy and have enjoyed relative stability compared to Somalia proper, which has been wracked by lawlessness since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohammed Siyad Barre.