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Dozens Killed in Somalia Clashes - 2003-07-11

Clashes between two clans in central Somalia have claimed scores of lives since Tuesday. The fighting appears to be over access to natural resources.

More than 50 people have died and 90 have been injured in clashes between two clans in the Mudug region of central Somalia.

The fighting reportedly started when members of the Sa'ad sub-clan attacked the Dir clan for allegedly killing two of its members.

But observers note that there was more to the clash than mere revenge.

The senior United Nations relief official for Somalia Calum McLean says this is the second time in three months that there has been fighting in the area.

"Now it's happened again," he said. "It's resource-based rather than political, you know, over grazing. It's over access to pasture and water."

Observers say conflicts among the Sa'ad, Dir, and other nomadic groups over land and water for their cattle are not uncommon, but it is unusual for things to go so far. They say the easy availability of guns makes the death toll much higher than clashes in the past.

The fighting comes at a time when Somali peace talks are being held in Kenya. Last year, representatives of clan-based factions signed a cease-fire while negotiations continued.

The talks aim to end 12 years of civil war in Somalia. The country is split into areas ruled by warring clan leaders. For the past year, those warlords and other delegates have been in Kenya trying to resolve their differences, write a new constitution, and elect a new president and parliament.

Mr. McLean says the United Nations agency is monitoring the situation in Mudug and urges Somali leaders to honor their commitments.

"We're very alarmed by the escalation in the conflict and call for leaders to respect the ceasefire declaration," said Mr. McLean.

United Nations sources report that the fighting in Mudug is subsiding.