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Foreign fighter may be among 16 killed in Somalia

Published: Saturday, July 11 2009 9:23 a.m. MDT

MOGADISHU, Somalia — A foreign fighter and a top government security official are among 16 people killed in Saturday's fighting between U.N.-backed government forces and Islamist insurgents in the north of the capital, a Somali official said.

Presidential information officer Abdulkhadir Wehliye said the foreign fighter is believed to be Bangladeshi because of identity documents found on the body.

An Associated Press reporter saw the body of the man, who appeared to be of non-African origin, displayed at the presidential palace on a stretcher.

There are believed to be hundreds of foreign jihadi fighters in Somalia supporting an Islamic insurgency. Government officials have claimed there are thousands of foreigners fighting against them but most analysts dismiss this as a ploy to wring cash and support for the international community, which is worried about the failed state becoming a haven for al-Qaida-linked terrorists.

Saturday's attack also claimed the life of Nor Daqli. He was head of security for the capital, Mogadishu, and the surrounding Benadir region.

Wehliye said the death toll was established by local police officers on the scene.

The attack follows an ultimatum issued by the insurgents last week for government soldiers to lay down their arms or face Islamic courts. The ultimatum expired Friday, the same day that insurgents beheaded seven men in the southwestern town of Baidoa for allegedly spying for the government.

The insurgents launched a renewed assault on the capital two months ago but have so far failed to take the port, airport or key buildings. The shaky government forces only hold a few key blocks of the capital but are reinforced by 4,300 African Union peacekeepers.

The insurgents have been fighting the government since an Islamic administration was pushed from power by government soldiers and their Ethiopian allies two and half years ago.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since clan warlords overthrew a dictator in 1991 and then turned on each other.

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