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Somali rebel boss may be dead

A SOMALI Islamist rebel leader considered a terrorist by the the United Nations is seriously injured from fighting between rival Islamist groups and may be dead, a family member and a militia opposed to him said yesterday.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys' own movement, Hizbul Islam, denied the reports of his death as "propaganda."

If true, Aweys' death would be a major blow to the Islamist rebels and a boost for President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's government, which had tried unsuccessfully to broker peace talks with the 62-year-old cleric.

Aweys, whom western security services say is close to al-Qaida, has headed various Islamist groups since the 1990s.

"We understand that Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys was brought yesterday to his brother's house," a family member told reporters. "We were denied access but confirmed there were doctors in the area ... The mood looks like he is dead. The whole area is surrounded by gunmen."

The government-allied moderate Islamist militia Ahla Sunna Waljamaca said its fighters shot Aweys during battles in Wabho town on Friday, and that he died of wounds later.

There were also rumors among militia fighters that another rebel leader, Sheikh Hassan Abdullah Hersi al-Turki, was among the 123 combatants who died in the fighting around Wabho.

In Mogadishu, where hardline Islamist insurgents al Shabaab have been battling government forces, three people died yesterday when a remote control mine meant for a police car struck another vehicle.


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