Clashes in Somalia kill 11, displace 50,000: U.N.

October 14, 2016 12:52 PM EDT

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By Abdi Sheikh

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Clashes between two semi-autonomous regions of Somalia this week have killed at least 11 people and displaced around 50,000, the United Nations said on Friday, stoking concerns the violence could escalate.

Clashes have been intensifying between forces loyal to the semi-autonomous regions of Puntland and forces from the semi-autonomous Galmudug region. The two sides are fighting in the town of Galkayo, which is divided between clan militias loyal to the different regions.

"The armed violence has exacerbated an already fragile humanitarian situation ... especially for IDPs (internally displaced people) who continue to live in deplorable conditions and makeshift structures," the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement.

The statement said 11 people had been killed in the fighting so far, citing local officials.

Hirsi Yusuf Barre, the mayor of Galkayo south, said three members of their Galmudug militia had been killed on Thursday and five injured.

The dispute centered around plans by militia from the north part of town, who are allied with Puntland, to build in the south part of town, he said.

"Puntland wants to build in parts of our south Galkayo by force and that is an aggression we will not accept," he said. "Puntland tanks started shelling us yesterday and we had to respond."

Major Mohamed Ibrahim, a military officer in Puntland, said they had lost two soldiers on Thursday. "Galmudug started the fighting," he said. "We shall defend ourselves."

Somalia has been at civil war for 25 years and clashes between the clan-based militias who control much of the country are common. In the south, forces loyal to the weak U.N.-backed government are also battling Islamist insurgents.

(Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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