March 20, 2010 / 11:59 AM / 9 years ago

Somali al Shabaab rebel commander shot dead

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - A senior official of Somali insurgent group al Shabaab was shot dead on Friday in a rare assassination in the southern port of Kismayu, which is tightly controlled by the al Qaeda-linked rebels.

Sheikh Daud Ali Hasan, a commander who has been leading fighting against rival insurgents in the town of Dhobley close to Kenya, was killed near al Shabaab’s military base in Kismayu as he returned home on Friday night.

“We are after running the killers. We have already arrested several suspects and we should bring them to the justice soon,” Sheikh Abukar Ali Adan, al Shabaab’s chairman in the area, told a news conference in Kismayu on Saturday.

While al Shabaab and rebel group Hizbul Islam have fought together in the capital against the Western-backed government, the two insurgent movements have been at loggerheads for months in the south of the Horn of Africa nation.

They have battled for control of Kismayu, the lucrative main port for rebel-held areas of southern Somalia, as well as the town of Dhobley on the main road linking the port to neighboring Kenya.

Hizbul Islam denied having a hand in the killing, but said it would step up attacks on Dhobley after a raid on Friday night in which it said it killed a number of al Shabaab militants.

Somalia has had no effective government for 19 years and Western nations and neighbors say the anarchic country is used as a shelter by militants intent on launching attacks in east Africa and further afield.

At least 21,000 Somalis have been killed since the start of 2007, 1.5 million have been uprooted from their homes and nearly half a million are sheltering in other countries in the region.

Additional reporting by Sahra Abdi in Nairobi; reporting by Abdi Guled; Editing by David Clarke

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