BAIDOA, Somalia Dec 21 (Garowe Online) � Heavy fighting erupted again late Wednesday night and spilled over into Thursday morning near the Somali government base Baidoa, an inland trade hub 250km northwest of Mogadishu.
Heavy shelling and rocket fire was heard during the night, according to Baidoa residents, as war anxiety gripped townsfolk.
Witnesses near the frontlines reported seeing hundreds of families fleeing the escalating violence in parts of Bay region, as both sides exchanged heavy weaponry including BM shells.
The fighting was heaviest around Idale village, 70km south of Baidoa, and around the outskirts of Deynunay government military camp on the main road linking Baidoa to Buurhakaba.
Medical sources in Mogadishu confidentially informed Garowe Online that Islamist militia returning from the frontlines transported 70 dead bodies to Mogadishu, with another 45 seriously wounded Islamist fighters being treated at local hospitals.
|Indha Ade, Islamic Courts' chief of security|
The Islamists� top security official said in Mogadishu that the fighting would continue.
�The fighting won�t stop and we will continue [it] until our forces reach the Somali border with Ethiopia�if Ethiopia refuses to remove its troops from Baidoa and other parts of Somalia, we promise to meet in Addis Ababa,� said Islamic Courts security chief Yusuf Indha Ade.
Indha Ade claimed the Islamists were victorious during battles againt allied government and Ethiopian troops over the past 2 days.
Ethiopia denies it has any combat troops in Somalia, but admits sending hundreds of military advisors to back the interim government.
Independent reports have confirmed to Garowe Online that non-Somali fighters have participated in the ongoing battles in parts of Bay region.
While confirming that Ethiopians backed government troops during the fighting, the reports also suggest that "hundreds" of foreign-born fighters are fighting alongside Islamic Courts forces in battles around Idale and Deynunay villages, with more foreign fighters being deployed to the frontlines.
On Tuesday, Somali Premier Ali Muhammad Gedi accused the Islamists of bringing more than 5,000 foreign fighters to Somalia.
The U.S. government has accused the Islamists of providing a "safe haven" for terror suspects, including operatives believed to be responbible for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa.
The Islamists deny the charges.
Keep with Garowe Online for the latest minute-by-minute updates on this developing story.
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