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Fighting in Central Somalia Kills 31

December 17, 2003

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) _ Rival militias battled over barren desert lands in central Somalia on Tuesday in fighting that killed at least 31 people and wounded 50 others, a spokesman for one of the militias said.

The violence came as the U.N. Security Council called Tuesday for the creation of a monitoring group to investigate violations of the U.N. arms embargo against Somalia and make recommendations to strengthen it.

The fighting between two subclans near Dhuusa Mareeb, 250 miles north of Mogadishu, began at 11 a.m. and lasted throughout the day, witnesses said.

Witnesses said the fighters had nowhere to seek cover in the treeless desert, resulting in the high death toll.

Abdulaahi Mohamed Ali, a spokesman for one of the militia groups, said 12 fighters on his side were killed and 20 wounded. He said the other side suffered 19 deaths.

Representatives for the other militia group could not immediately be contacted.

Hospital workers in Dhuusa Mareeb said 50 wounded fighters had received treatment.

The last confrontation between fighters from the Marehan and Dir subclans over land occurred in mid November and left nearly 100 people dead. Elders and chieftains from the two groups are still in peace negotiations, but after Tuesday’s fighting both sides were remobilizing their militias.

Hundreds of women and children have fled their homes in anticipation of more fighting, residents said.

A resolution adopted unanimously by the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday asks Secretary-General Kofi Annan to establish a four-member group to investigate arms smuggling to Somalia.

It said offenders and their supporters could face ``possible future measures by the council.″

The United Nations imposed an arms embargo against Somalia in 1992, a year after the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. The Horn of Africa nation has not had an effective government since then.

The council authorized the new monitoring group, which will be based in Nairobi, to focus on transfers of ammunition, single use weapons and small arms.

A report to the council last month by a previous panel of experts appointed by Annan said there was a continuous influx of small quantities of arms and ammunition into Somalia that feeds the local arms markets and provides weapons for the country’s warlords.

According to the report, weapons shipments tend to originate in _ or are routed through _ Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.