Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Monday, June 17, 2002

Heavy Fighting Breaks Out in Southern Somalia

Heavy fighting broke out Monday between rival militiamen in the very fertile Middle Shabelle region of southern Somalia.


Heavy fighting broke out Monday between rival militiamen in the very fertile Middle Shabelle region of southern Somalia.

The fighting is between the supporters of the interior minister of the transitional national government Dahir Dayah and those of warlord Mohamed Dhere controlling Jowhar town, the capital city of Middle Shabelle region.

According to the eyewitnesses contacted on the VHF radios in Mahadday district close to where the fighting broke out, it was in the early morning that the two sides started exchanging heavy gunfires outside El-Baraf village, about 150 kilometers north of Mogadishu.

The eyewitnesses have confirmed seeing more than 13 battle wagons and hundreds of heavily armed militiamen from both sides who were all involved in the fighting.

At about noon today, the fighting seemed to have spread close to Mahadday district in the villages of Ali-Foldhere and Magurti.

It is difficult to obtain exact figures about the casualties as a result of this fighting which still continues raging.

However, independent sources from the region have confirmed the death of at least 19 people and more than 30 others wounded from both sides. Among the wounded are eight militiamen from Mohamed Dhere side who were rushed to Jowhar town, 90 kilometers north of Mogadishu, for treatment.

Warlord Mohamed Dhere has accused the government forces of destabilizing Middle Shabelle region and that his forces had to engage them before they deeply penetrated into the region as he put it.

Mohamed Dhere has also claimed victory, saying that he has captured 17 assault rifles from his opponents and dispersed them.

His rival, Dahir Dayah, also spoke about the fighting has characterized it as an attack against the pro-government villages in Middle Shabelle region by warlord Mohamed Dhere.

Even though the fighting has started on the principle of pro- and-anti-government ideologies, it now seems that it is degenerating into sub-clannish war between the Agon-Yar and Warsangeli subclans, which Dahir Dayah and Mohamed Dhere belong to respectively.

Both sides have been preparing themselves for such war despite the fact that there had been unsuccessful attempts of peace brokering between the two sides by elders from the community.

The fighting outside Mahadday district is very much disturbing the ordinary people from two sides living together peacefully in Jowhar and several other towns and villages in the region.

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