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Somalia Rivals Battle, 30 Dead

January 6, 1999

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) _ Heavy fighting today between rival Somali clans killed 30 people and wounded 50 in the southern port town of Kismayo, witnesses said.

Contacted by radio, the witnesses said fighters from the Marehan and Majerten clans clashed in the town center and at the airport today, exchanging mortar fire and rocket propelled grenades.

The fighting, 250 miles southwest of the capital, Mogadishu, lasted several hours and destroyed shops and other buildings, the sources said on condition of anonymity.

Somalia has lacked a central government since the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Rival clan-based militia have since divided the country into armed fiefdoms.

Marehan forces captured Kismayo in 1993 but have failed to gain control of any territory farther in the interior.

Battles between the clans in mid-December claimed as many as 20 lives. Since then, mediation efforts have been unsuccessful.

A Marehan spokesman in Mogadishu confirmed that Marehan forces attacked Majerten positions at the airport and the former presidential place and claimed some success.

Majertan supporters said their forces turned back the assault.

Independent sources, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation, said the Marehan militias briefly captured control of the airport then were forced to retreat.

Ten Marehan militiamen were captured during the fighting, sources on both sides said.

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