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Fighting Erupts in Key Somali Port

A fighter stands guard in southern Somali port city of Kismayo, (File photo).
Heavy fighting between rival militias broke out Friday in the key Somali port of Kismayo.

Witnesses say forces loyal to the leader of the Raskamboni group, Ahmed Madobe, battled forces led by a local leader, Ifti Hassan Basto. Both men claim to be president of Somalia's newly-created Jubaland region.

Somali Defense Minister Abdihakim Mohamoud Fiqi tells VOA that at least one person was killed and eight others wounded.

"Today it is unfortunate that two local militias from two self-declared presidents fought inside the city," he said. "The fighting started around midday and still sporadic gunfire can be heard now. We condemn the fighting and call on both sides to cease the hostility and the bloodshed."

Kismayo is one of Somalia's busiest ports and an important source of revenue for whoever controls it. Militant group al-Shabab ran the city for several years before being pushed out by African Union forces and Raskamboni last October.

The Somali government formed last year has been trying to extend its authority to Kismayo and other parts of the country, but many militia groups continue to operate. Al-Shabab also remains active.