updated 7/9/2008 7:16:22 PM ET 2008-07-09T23:16:22

Gunmen killed a prominent Somali peace activist Wednesday, residents said, sparking angry demonstrations in a northern town that is a flash point between two of Somalia's largest clans.

"Two gunmen armed with pistols shot and killed Ali Jama Bihi as he came out from a dawn prayer," said Haji Dahir Nur, a clan elder in Galkayo. "They shot him in the head and heart and he died instantly."

Bihi was a key negotiator between the powerful Darod and Hawiye clan militias in the town, 470 miles north of Mogadishu. It was the 31st killing of a prominent resident of Galkayo, the birthplace of the Somali president, since May.

"The killers of the innocent elders will lead to the reemerging of the Green zone that divides the city," resident Sultana Abdi Khalif warned at the grave of the slain activist.

The Darod generally live in the north of Galkayo and the Hawiye in the south, but both clans have members in many other cities.

After Bihi's burial, residents marched through the streets with placards blaming the Hawiye for the killing and demanding they stay out of the Darod part of the city. Around 100 people also hurled stones at storefronts after the burial. Shopkeepers hurriedly shut down their businesses and police fired in the air to scatter them, Nur said.

Rivalries divide nation
Clan rivalries have torn Somalia apart since warlords killed dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other.

The fighting is complicated by the involvement of archenemies Eritrea and Ethiopia. Eritrea supports Islamic insurgents who have vowed to topple the corrupt and shaky U.N.-backed government, which took power in early 2007 after Ethiopian military support chased out the Islamists.

The Islamists, who had controlled the capital and much of the south for six months, began an Iraq-style insurgency. They have recently captured, then abandoned, several towns.

On Wednesday, the African Union urged the U.N. Security Council to "take measures against all those who seek to undermine the ongoing political process in Somalia and in the region."

The deputy head of mission for the Somali government in Ethiopia, Somalia Jibril Osman, said the measures would mean travel bans and banking restrictions on some of the better-known leaders of the Somali Islamist Al-Shabab militia. A previous U.S. State Department designation of Shabab leaders as terrorists means they already face many restrictions.

Another death
In a separate incident, the U.N. food agency said Wednesday that Somali gunmen shot and killed another of its drivers in southern Somalia.

The World Food Program says Ahmed Saalim is the fourth agency driver to be killed this year in Somalia. Ahmed Saalim was in a convoy carrying 664 U.S. tons of relief food to the Bay and Bakool regions when he was caught in a gunfight at a checkpoint on Monday.

Some 2.4 million Somalis rely on food aid, but aid workers are increasingly facing attacks such as those that have killed the four World Food Program workers.

Gunmen shot and killed the head of the U.N. development program on Sunday. The head of Somalia's U.N. refugee agency was kidnapped last month.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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