MOGADISHU - At least six people were killed on Thursday as fighting between rival militias intensified in central Somalia, bringing the death toll from three days of factional clashes to 36, witnesses said.
As clan elders unsuccessfully tried to broker a truce, heavy fighting erupted between the Galjeyil and Jajolo subgroups of the larger Hawiye clan at Beletweyne about 300 kilometers (185 miles) north of Mogadishu, they said.
"Communication between the two sides of the town has come to a halt," said Mohamed Ismail Mukhtar, a radio operator in the area. "But negotiations by elders will continue until the violence subsides."
In addition to the six new deaths, Mukhtar and other witnesses said that at least 13 people had been wounded on Thursday while militia sources put the number of casualties at 21.
Earlier in the week, fighting around Beletweyne, the capital of lawless Somalia's Hiran region, and adjacent Galgudud region claimed at least 30 lives and left dozens injured, witnesses and clan elders said.
They said the clashes were linked to long-running factional feuds over land and water rights and banditry and not related to disputes over moving the war-shattered country's transitional government to Somalia from exile in Kenya.
Somalia has lacked an effective central government since the 1991 ouster of strongman Mohammed Siad Barre split the vast desert country of some 10 million people into a patchwork of fiefdoms governed by unruly warlords.
Somalia's new leaders, who were sworn into office in Kenya late last year, are still based in Nairobi owing to widespread insecurity in their own country.
They are due to soon relocate to their home country but the government has been locked in a bitter dispute over where to move, with the president and prime minister favouring the towns of Baidoa and Jowhar for security reasons.
But warlords controlling the capital, many of whom are in the government, insist that the administration move to Mogadishu.