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Thursday, 27 December, 2001, 15:23 GMT
Heavy fighting erupts in Somalia
Somali rebels
The warring militias belong to the same clan

By Hassan Barise in Mogadishu

At least 11 people have been killed and 25 others wounded in heavy fighting between members of the same militia in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Clashes broke out on Wednesday night following a disagreement over whether to attend a reconciliation conference in neighbouring Kenya.

Rebels are fighting for control of Medina district in Mogadishu
A factional split developed after the group's leader, warlord Muse Sudi Yalahow, refused to take part and one of his lieutenants, Omar Mohamed Mohamud, went instead.

Mr Yalahow rejected the Somali peace deal signed by Mr Omar in Nairobi on Monday which calls for the formation of a national unity government within a month.

Both warring sides belong to Abgal sub-clan, which is dominant in the capital.

Fierce fighting

Witnesses say an intense gun battle erupted between fighters form both sides when some members wanted to welcome Mr Omar on his return from Nairobi.

Hundreds of armed militiamen are now fighting for control of the Medina district, south-west of Mogadishu, and each side is reported to be bringing in reinforcements.

Most of the dead and wounded have been civilians caught in the crossfire.

Kenya President Daniel Arap Moi (right) shakes hands with Somali Prime Minister Hassan Abshir Farah
Warlord Muse Sudi Yalahow opposed the reconciliation conference in Kenya

The commander of Mr Omar's fighters, Mr Ahmed Hassan Addow, said two of his men had been killed and four others wounded.

Mr Yalahow is reported to have lost four of his fighters.

Dozens of families have fled the area and public transport and businesses have stopped operating in Medina because of the clashes.

Mr Omar's fighters have made some gains, capturing Mr Yalahow's command control centre and Jazira airport, which had been under his rival's control since 1991.

Witnesses reported an intensification of fighting on Thursday afternoon, including heavy shelling.

Elders from both sides have begun mediation efforts to try to restore calm.

See also:

13 Nov 01 | Africa
Somali PM pledges reconciliation
16 Jul 01 | Africa
Somali troops battle militiamen
28 Mar 01 | Africa
Somali warlords condemn ambush
05 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Somalia
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