Mogadishu, Feb 11 (IANS) More than 20 people were killed and 35 injured in a clash between government troops and a moderate Islamist group in Somalia, medical sources said Tuesday.

The clash took place when government forces, trying to resist the takeover of Guricel town, some 400 km north of here, exchanged fire with the Islamist group AhluSunnah WalJamaah.

“We can confirm the death of 20 people and 35 others wounded,” Ali Omar, a medical officer in a local hospital told Xinhua.

Hassan Nor, a resident, said that several families fled the town due to the fight. “We left our homes because the fighting had intensified by afternoon.”

The Ismamist group has claimed that they have taken over the town. The government has, however, not commented on the situation.

Abdulah Godax Bare, a parliament member and former interior minister, has called on the government and the group to negotiate and reach a solution. “I call upon the government of Somalia and the leadership of AhluSunnah to come to the table and talk on inclusivity.”

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud had earlier in the day opened a reconciliation conference in a nearby town of Dhusumareb and met with local leaders over the incessant conflicts in the area which have claimed several lives.

AhluSunnah WalJamaah had been fighting alongside the government to defeat the militant group Al-Shabaab. However, their partnership recently fell apart over disagreement about power sharing.