January 12, 2010 / 8:50 AM / 10 years ago

At least 14 killed in militia clash in central Somalia

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - At least 14 people were killed in a third day of fighting between pro-government militias and al Shabaab rebel group in central Somalia, witnesses and a rights group said Tuesday.

Al Shabaab, branded by Washington as an al Qaeda proxy in the region, want to enforce a strict version of Sharia (Islamic law) in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation that has had no functional central government since 1991.

Its fighters and those of government-friendly Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca, who advocate a more moderate version of Islam, clashed in Wabho and Warhole, north of Mogadishu.

“At least 14 people died and 32 others were injured in Warhole. Most of the casualties are fighters from both groups,” Ali Yasin Geddi, the vice chairman of Elman peace and human rights, told Reuters.

“So far 250 families, mostly pastoralists have fled and there is fear fighting might spread to other areas.”

Residents say the fighting in Warhole started Monday and continued in Wabho where al Shabaab fighters retreated.

“Armed Ahlu Sunna vehicles took over Warhole yesterday afternoon and their fighters are on the streets,” resident Farhan Ali told Reuters by telephone.

Fighting in the strategic town of Baladwayne in central Somalia killed at least 13 people Sunday and Monday.

Since the beginning of 2007, clashes have killed 19,000 Somalis and displaced 1.5 million people.

Editing by George Obulutsa

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