February 20, 2011 / 3:39 PM / 9 years ago

Somalia peacekeepers smash key rebel trench system

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - African Union peacekeepers fighting Somali rebels have smashed a mile-long trench system used by the militants in a weekend of heavy fighting in the capital Mogadishu, the peacekeeping force said on Sunday.

The force, known as AMISOM, said it had killed at least six foreign fighters in the latest flare-up of fighting and said two of its own troops had been killed.

“The discovery and closure of this tunnel is a major step forward in the stabilisation effort in the city. The extremists were using the trench and tunnel system to infiltrate fighters closer to AMISOM positions without detection,” AMISOM spokesman Major Barigye Ba-Hoku said in a statement.

The tunnel had served as a supply and casualty evacuation route for the al Shabaab movement, Ba-Hoku said.

Insurgents who profess loyalty to al Qaeda have fought a four-year insurgency to topple an interim government they say is a stooge of the West.

Counter-terrorism experts say the lawless Horn of Africa nation has become a haven for foreign jihadists bent on wreaking havoc across the region.

Medics said at least nine civilians had been killed and dozens wounded in the past 36 hours during clashes that saw rebels and African Union peacekeepers trade rounds of heavy artillery.

“We have collected nine dead people and 41 injured on Saturday and Sunday,” Ali Muse, ambulances services coordinator, told Reuters.

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