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Seven Die In Somalia Fighting

Fighting broke out after an elder was shot to death in a Somali town, with factions attacking each other with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, witnesses said Wednesday.

At least seven people were killed and 15 wounded during the fighting Tuesday in Belet Huen, 215 miles north of the capital Mogadishu, the witnesses said by telephone on condition they not be named.

They said an elder of the Hawadleh group was shot dead by two militiamen from the Jajeleh group. Immediately after the killing, the Hawadleh retaliated and hundreds of men from both groups engaged in heavy fighting.

Belet Huen is a divided city, with the Hawadleh controlling the east and the Jajeleh and Galje'el groups controlling the western part of the town.

The Shabelle River acts as a natural boundary, and the heaviest battles took place near the town's main bridges as each side attempted to destroy the other's strongholds.

The Galje'el, traditionally allies of the Jajeleh, were also reported to be involved in the fighting.

The fighting caused local businesses to close, and some of the casualties were civilians caught in cross fire, the witnesses said. There were no immediate reports of fighting Wednesday, but the town's shops and businesses remained closed.

Somalia has had no central government since the collapse of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre's rule in 1991.

Siad Barre was ousted by clan-based factions that then turned on each other, dragging the country into chaos


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