Over 20 people were killed in the course of an outbreak of heavy fighting in the Middle Shabelle Region, south-central Somalia, according to sources in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
The fighting in the village of Raghe-Eil, 95 km northeast of Mogadishu, pits militias loyal to faction leader Muhammad Dhere against those of the Abgal sub-clan Muhammad Muse. The clashes, which began on Thursday, were still continuing sporadically on Monday, a local journalist told IRIN.
The fighting coincides with a visit to the country of an international fact-finding mission. The team, which includes representatives of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the EU, and the Arab League is in the country to observe the effectiveness of the ceasefire agreement signed by the Somali parties participating in the peace conference being held in Kenya.
So far, at least 23 people have been killed and scores wounded "in and around Raghe-Eil", Ahmadey Shaykh Hasan of the Muhammad Muse sub-clan told IRIN on Monday. Ahmadey said that on Thursday, 18 people, 17 of them civilians and one militiaman from the village, were killed in Raghe-Eil. On Sunday, Muhammad Dhere forces attacked the village of Qordhere, 30 km west of Raghe-Eil, and killed five more people, he said. "Two of those killed were Koranic school children," he added.
The latest round of fighting was a continuation of the battles which erupted in early March, and was an attempt by Muhammad Dhere to expand his area of influence, said the local journalist. Muhammad Dhere controls Jowhar, 85 km north Mogadishu, the capital of the Middle Shabelle region.
Attempts made by IRIN to reach Muhammad Dhere for comment failed.
This is the latest violation of a ceasefire agreement signed last October by the Somali parties attending the peace talks, being mediated by IGAD in Nairobi.
Ahmadey told IRIN that his group had sent a letter of protest to the IGAD Technical Committee, which is facilitating the conference, "about Muhammad Dhere's activities". "Every time he comes back from Nairobi, this happens. They have to do something," Ahmadey said.
Somali sources attending the conference told IRIN it was up to the ceasefire monitoring committee to "start dealing with those who violate the agreement they signed".
"The time for condemnation is over. It is now time for action, otherwise no-one will take the committee seriously," said one delegate.
Under the terms of the agreement signed by the parties on 27 October, the Somali groups agreed to suspend all hostilities for the duration of the conference.
However, since then, there have been repeated violations, with fighting in Mogadishu, the towns of Las Anod in the northeast and Baidoa in the southwest, as well as in the Bari, Bay, Bakol, Gedo and Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, and Middle Juba regions.
According to the journalist, the area is "very tense", with a real likelihood of more fighting in the coming days.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions