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Scores killed in Somali fighting

MOGADISHU, Jan 11 – Fighting between rival Islamist groups in central Somalia left at least 25 people dead and more than 50 wounded Sunday, said local elders and witnesses.

Clashes broke out between fighters of the hardline Shebab militia and members of a more moderate religious group, the Ahlu Sunna Wal-jama’ah in Guriel, about 500 kilometres (310 miles) northeast of Mogadishu.

"It was the heaviest clash ever in the region between the two sides," Abdulahi Hirsi Moge, a local elder, told AFP.

"We have counted at least 25 people, most of them combatants, killed in the fighting and there is still a possibility of some undisclosed dead bodies outside of the town," he added.

Local resident Ahmed Abdifatah said the fighting had stopped around midday and the dead bodies, at least 25 of them, were being collected from the streets. The wounded, including several civilians, had been taken to hospital, he added.

Mohamed Adan, a member of staff at the main hospital in the town, said at least 51 people had been admitted after the fighting.

The two forces clashed several times for control of the town at the end of December.

Somalia has been in the grip of a civil war since 1991, with no central government strong enough to impose its authority.

Shebab officials blame Ethiopian troops — who invaded the country in 2006 to back the government but who are in the process of pulling out — of supporting some religious groups against them.

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