Somalia: Hundreds flee Kismayo as clashes reignite
Hundreds of people are fleeing the southern Somali port city of Kismayo after fighting broke out between two self-declared leaders of the region.
At least 10 people were killed on Saturday as clashes between the rival militias flared for a second day. Seven were killed on Friday, residents said.
Fighting began when one of the leaders tried to meet the defence minister, who is seeking to resolve the situation.
African Union troops are in charge of security in Kismayo.
The city was captured from Islamist militants last October.
A new UN-backed government in Mogadishu is trying to regain control of the country after more than 20 years of conflict with the help of the AU force.
Kismayo residents say the fighting is intense, with militiamen firing continuously from pick-up trucks mounted with heavy weaponry.
There are many different clans in the region – known as Jubaland – who compete for lucrative port revenues in Kismayo and access to the most fertile land in Somalia.
Currently there are several self-declared presidents of Jubaland and the government has said it recognises none of them.
It wants the groups to attend a meeting in Mogadishu to resolve the issue – this is why Defence Minister Abdihakim Mahmoudis Haji went to Kismayo.
Friday’s fighting started when fighters loyal to Ahmed Madobe stopped his rival Istin Hassan from meeting Mr Haji, who was staying at a hotelin central Kismayo.
Mr Haji told the BBC Somali Service that the fighting “would not be tolerated and should stop forthwith”.
He denied allegations that members of the Somali army had joined the rival militias.
Losing Kismayo in October was a blow for al-Shabab, the al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group which controlled larges swathes of country in recent years.
Although the AU and Somali government have driven al-Shabab from most major cities, its fighters still control smaller towns and rural areas in central and southern Somalia and they sometimes launch attacks in government-controlled territory.