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Tentera Somalia tawan pengkalan hutan UIC

Somali forces capture jungle base
8 January

Government and Ethiopian forces have captured what they say was a jungle base used by Islamic courts fighters in southern Somalia.

A government military commander said on Monday that Ras Kamboni was taken after a two-day campaign using ground forces and air support.

Mohammed Adow, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Somalia, said: "Taking over Ras Kamboni denies Islamist fighters a base from which to launch their guerrilla attacks. It leaves them sandwiched between the US forces patrolling the coast and Kenyan forces stationed at the border."

Abdirashid Hidig, an official with the Somali government, said that troops had "captured Ras Kamboni".

Earlier on Monday, Abdullahi Yusuf, the Somali president, travelled to Mogadishu, the capital, for the first time since taking office in 2004.

But four people were killed in Mogadishu over the weekend as violence continued in protests over government plans to disarm the population by force and against the presence of Ethiopian troops on Somali soil.

Adow said: "There are many government soldiers on the streets [of Mogadishu], but underneath it looks as though no one is in charge."

'Policy of reconciliation'

The government has said it is ready to accept "moderates" from the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) on condition that they renounce violence and agree to support the national administration.

"Our policy is of reconciliation. Our doors are open and we shall welcome all Somali parties into the national administration," said Abdirahman Dinari, a government spokesman.

Over the weekend, Jendayi Frazer, a US diplomat to Africa, met Ali Mohamed Gedi, the Somali prime minister, and Sherif Hassan Sheikh Aden, the Somali parliament speaker, asking them to open talks with moderates.

Frazer said Washington had already opened dialogue with Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, one of the UIC leaders.

Dinari said: "The Islamists are welcome as long they put down their arms, stop violence and indicate their willingness to join us in rebuilding our country."

Some Islamic courts members have surfaced in Yemen and say they are willing to hold peace talks with the government, but on Monday Yusuf ruled that out.

Interviewed by Al Jazeera before flying to Mogadishu he said: "With regard to holding talks with the courts, this will not happen. We will crack down on the terrorists in any place around the nation."

In Brussels, 27 EU countries last week said "non-extremist" elements must be invited into the Somali leadership as "a condition for the continuation of our aid". alJazeera & Agencies

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