Blast in Somalia kills 5 pro-government troops

A new military offensive in Somalia has gained ground against al-Shabab insurgents.

Mogadishu: A new military offensive in Somalia has gained ground against al-Shabab insurgents despite a bomb explosion on Monday that killed five pro-government troops at a base militants fled last week, officials said.

Maj. Paddy Ankunda, a spokesman for African Union troops in Somalia, said his forces began an operation last Thursday that has gained 500 yards (meters) of territory from insurgents.

"The territory that we continue to cover is giving us hope that, yes, we are making progress," he said.

Some of the territory gained included a former Sufi shrine that al-Shabab used as a military base. An explosion ripped through the shrine on Monday, killing five troops with a pro-government militia, said Abdi Muhummad, a commander.

Muhummad said he believes al-Shabab, the country`s most dangerous insurgent group, buried the explosive before fleeing.

Three AU troops have died so far in the operation, in addition to Monday`s five deaths. Al-Shabab displayed one of the AU bodies in Mogadishu last week.

Ankunda said the AU`s ultimate target is Mogadishu`s main market, Bakara, which al-Shabab currently controls. He said the operation also aims to get more roads open for public use.

He said the AU has seen al-Shabab forcing local business men to pay higher taxes, a possible indication that the militants` finances are under pressure. He also called on Somalia`s government to solve their political problems so they don`t derail the military gains. Somalia`s president and parliament are arguing over elections scheduled for this summer.

Ankunda said that the AU force would kill an American fighting with al-Shabab if it could.

Omar Hammami, known as Abu Mansur al-Amriki, or "the American," held a news conference in the open last week, where he said that militants would seek revenge for the death of Osama bin Laden. Hammami, who sipped coconut milk from a straw as he spoke, gave the open-air news conference about 40 miles (60 kilometers) southwest of Mogadishu.

"We have the interest but unfortunately we don`t have the capabilities to deliver such an attack," Ankunda said. "But honestly we do have the interest."

Bureau Report

Mumbai: The CBI on Monday told a court, hearing the Adarsh Housing scam case, that a computer hard disk used by Urban Development Department officers (UDD) in preparing a note-sheet of the building was not traceable.

The disclosure by the agency comes days after a significant file connected with the case went missing from the Ministry of Environment and Forest in New Delhi.

The court also extended CBI`s custody of all the accused till May 18. All the accused have moved a bail application and the CBI is likely to file its reply on May 18.

The CBI had arrested three Maharashtra government officials ten days back in the case.

The agency told a magisterial court that nine computers, used for preparing various notings/correspondence of Adarsh Society, were identified in Mantralaya at the instance of the accused.

Another computer identified by the clerk in Mantralaya was found without a hard disk, the agency said.

The CBI said the accused - desk officer Gurudatt Wajpe, assistant town planner NN Narvekar and clerk of principal secretary of UDD Waman Rawool, all officials of the State Urban Development Department, need to be investigated to find the whereabouts of the hard disk.

The defence lawyers said that CBI custody of the accused was not required to trace the hard disk and sought judicial custody.

However, the court extended CBI`s custody of all the accused till May 18.