UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
SOMALIA: At least 20 reported killed in heavy fighting in Mogadishu
NAIROBI, 12 May 2004 (IRIN) - Heavy fighting which erupted in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, over the weekend has escalated, leaving an indeterminate number of people dead or wounded, a local journalist told IRIN on Wednesday.
He said the fighting was sparked off by a disagreement between two militias of the same clan who were loyal to two business people. It involved forces guarding the Global Hotel in the northern district of Behani, and those loyal to a local businessman from the Warsangeli clan, who reportedly attacked the hotel, which belongs to a businesswoman from the Wabudan clan.
"It quickly turned into an inter-clan war," the journalist said.
Hospital sources told IRIN that "over 20 people" had been killed in three days of battle. "In our hospital alone we have admitted 42 patients in the last the 24 hours, all of them wounded in the fighting," Ali Ade of Madina Hospital told IRIN on Wednesday.
He said the majority of those brought to the hospital were women and children, adding that nine of the patients had died. However, the overall death toll was "probably much higher, since in this kind of situation people usually bury the dead immediately without having recourse to hospitals", he added.
"There is too much indiscriminate shelling going on, and many people who had nothing to do with the fighting were killed," another source in Mogadishu told IRIN. "Most of those who died are civilians caught in the cross-fire."
According to the journalist, "thousands of families were displaced from their homes in some of the city's northern districts close to the fighting. Many families have fled the Behani and Abdul'aziz districts to escape the shelling." He added: "They are streaming into the southern side [of Mogadishu] looking for safety and shelter."
The fighting reduced at around 11:00 local time on Wednesday, but the journalist said: "There is still some shooting going on." He added: "There are fears that two prominent faction leaders might join the fighting on one side or the other, and thereby exacerbate the situation," he said. "So far it has been a Wabudan-Warsangeli affair, but if these guys join in it can only get worse."
Mediation efforts by elders from other subclans had so far failed to halt the violence, the journalist said.
The Somali capital, which is governed by clan warlords, has teemed with weapons ever since the country's central government collapsed at the fall of former president Muhammed Siyad Barre in 1991. Talks are going on in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to try and reestablish a government that could restore order in the country.
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