Rebel, army clashes kill nine in Somalia's Puntland

March 3, 2012 20:07


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BOSASSO, Somalia - Islamist al Shabaab rebels attacked soldiers from Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region, leaving at least nine people dead on Saturday, officials said, in the latest sign of a resurgence by the militants in the area.

Al Shabaab promised last week to step up action in the northern Puntland area - a territory which up to now has escaped the worst of Somalia's turmoil - after merging with another militant group there.The new alliance could mark set-back for international forces from the African Union, Kenya and Ethiopia, who have been making gains against the Al Qaeda-backed movement in other parts of the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.

Al Shabaab, fighting to impose a harsh interpretation of Islamic sharia law, has said it wants to control Puntland and scrap the licenses of Western oil and gas firms drilling in the area.

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