Friday's toll raised the number of dead to 40 after two days of fighting, village elders said.

"At least 12 people were killed after heavy shelling on Friday afternoon," Ahmad Muhammad, an elder, said.

"The forces did not engage in direct fighting like they did on Thursday, but they occasionally fought in the area by using heavy machine guns and also there was artillery and mortar shelling," he said.

"A huge number of civilians fled the area and have gone to neighbouring and relatively peaceful villages," Ahmed Haji Hasan, from nearby Bandira-Ley village, said.

On Thursday, at least 28 people were killed and 74 wounded in clashes as a result of fighting in the same village.

"A huge number of civilians fled the area and have gone to neighbouring and relatively peaceful villages"

Ahmed Haji Hassan,
local elder

Local residents said the clashes were linked to the early November killing of five elders from the Sulayman sub-clan by gunmen from the rival Sa'ad sub-clan.

A new Somali cabinet was announced in Nairobi earlier in the week. The new administration is designed to fill a 13-year-old power vacuum in the war-torn Horn of Africa state.

Power struggle

Since the 1991 fall of dictator Muhammad Siad Barri, Somalia has lacked an effective central government and any form of national security forces, leaving the country's numerous clans and sub-clans to fight it out.

More than two years of talks in Kenya between commanders, elders, civil society leaders and academics have produced many of the building blocks of change. It is hoped they will lead to Somalia's first effective government since Barri's ousting.

Somaliland is located to the north
east of Somalia

But all these institutions - a parliament, president, prime minister and, as of Wednesday, a cabinet - remain based in Nairobi, because Somalia's own capital, Mogadishu, is still considered too dangerous.

Meanwhile talks are under way between Somaliland officials and UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland.

Aljazeera's correspondent said talks were being held in Hargeisa and that Egeland would be assessing the situation in nearby refugee camps.