At least six people have been killed in clashes between Islamic fighters and Somali pirates in a Somali port, local elders said Saturday.
The Islamist fighters attacked the pirates in Hobyo, 450 kilometres (270 miles) north of the capital Mogadishu on Friday, just after they had released a Jordanian-flagged cargo ship seized nearly a week earlier.
“Two Islamists and several pirates died in the fighting which lasted more than an hour,” one of the elders, Abdinasir Diriye, told AFP by telephone.
An Islamist leader said four pirates and two Islamists had been killed in the shoot-out, adding that they had also arrested several of the pirates.
The hijacked vessel, MV Victoria, which had been seized on May 17, was released Friday.
Local elders had said Islamist fighters had threatened to attack the pirates if they did not release the ship.
The Islamists controlled a large swathe of Somalia for several months before they were routed early in 2007 by Somali forces backed by Ethiopian troops.
Since then they have launched almost daily guerrilla attacks in Mogadishu and outside the capital.
The waters off Somalia, which has not had an effective central government for more than 17 years, are considered among the most dangerous in the world for shipping.
More than 25 ships were seized off Somalia last year despite US navy patrols, according to the International Maritime Bureau