At least 23 people were killed and more than 38 were wounded in new inter-clan fighting in Somalia's Lower Shabelle region, elders and witnesses said Saturday.
The fighting between the Gare and the Gido sub-clans was a continuation of hostilities between the two in the past three days in Qoryoley district town and its surroundings, the elders said.
The fighting continued Saturday, with the warring parties using heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, according to the Islamic court militia, which is the most powerful armed group in the region.
"Most of the people killed were Gido gunmen, who had attacked the Garre," a spokesman for the Garre, Asad Mohamed Abdi, told AFP here.
Abdi said that the Garre defenders lost nine -- six civilians and three militiamen -- while 14 Gido attackers were killed.
Abdi also accused the Islamic court militia, which controls Lower Shabelle and has acted as a buffer zone in the contested areas since Friday in order to stop the fighting, of siding with the Gido, although independent sources said the court's militia has maintained strict neutrality.
Gido elders counter-accused the Garre militiamen of rampant looting, rape and torture of civilians.
"The Garre feel that they were stronger militarily and are, therefore, the regional government. They have several times looted cattle from the Gido in the past two months," Gido elder Mohamed Mayow Nur told AFP by radio communication on Saturday from Bulo village in the Lower Shabelle.
Nur refused to give any specific casualty figures, but said the warring sides may have lost more than 30 people.
The Islamic court militia withdrew as the fighting intensified.
Most of the wounded have arrived in Mogadishu and the southern Somali port town of Merca, while those killed were buried on the spot, witnesses said.
The latest fighting in Qoryoley has been the heaviest since last January's battle there between the Rahanwein Resistance Army (RRA) and the Islamic court.
Large numbers of families from the warring sides and those from neutral clans have fled since the new hostilities flared - MOGADISHU (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)