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Somali Government Says Islamists Flee to Town on Kenya Border


Officials in Somalia say Islamist fighters have fled to a remote forest area after losing control of their last major stronghold earlier on Monday.

The Islamists abandoned the coastal city of Kismayo following an artillery barrage from Ethiopian forces that back the Somali interim government.

Government officials say the Islamists have now gathered in Ras Kamboni, a rugged and isolated area near the border with Kenya.

Somali officials have asked Kenya to seal the border to keep the Islamists from crossing over. The Kenyan government says it has put what it calls necessary security measures in place.

The Somali government is now trying to assert control over Kismayo and other areas. Today, Somalia's interim prime minister, Ali Mohamed Gedi, ordered all Somalis to turn in their weapons.

The prime minister also offered amnesty to retreating Islamist fighters.

The Islamists have been withdrawing from their former strongholds since Ethiopia launched an offensive against the movement nearly two weeks ago.

Islamist leaders had earlier declared a "holy war" on Ethiopia for its support of Somalia's internationally-recognized-but-weak interim government.

Some Islamist leaders have threatened to start a guerrilla war against the government and the Ethiopians.

Prime Minister Gedi today repeated an appeal for an African Union peacekeeping force to help stabilize Somalia.

The country has been without an effective central government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki today called for a summit of East African leaders to discuss the Somali crisis.

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