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SOMALIA: Violence out of control, say Mogadishu residents

NAIROBI, 19 February 2007 (IRIN) - Days before an African peacekeeping force is deployed in Somalia, violence has spiralled in the capital, Mogadishu, forcing hundreds of families to flee the city and set up temporary camps on the outskirts.

The Somali minister of information, Madobe Nuunow Muhammad, said the government was trying to involve civilians to find a solution to the problem. "We do have a problem but we are addressing it and will contain it soon," he said on Monday.

"The current insecurity has built up in 16 years of chaos and anarchy and cannot be solved in the short period of time we have," he added. "There is a special security committee for the capital; including officials and the public. We can solve this together and that is why government is involving the public."

As part of the strategies to stabilise the city, the African Union plans to deploy an 8,000-strong peacekeeping force, but so far only 4,000 troops have been committed. The first contingent of 1,500 Ugandan troops is expected within days, according to Uganda's officials.

In the meantime, Mogadishu residents have to endure unending violence. On Sunday, four people died after their car exploded, and four others including a policeman, were shot dead, local sources told IRIN on Monday.

Hospital sources said the number of people seeking treatment from weapon wounds had risen sharply. "From 1 to 18 February, we had 98 weapon-wounded, of whom 21 died of their wounds," said Sheikhdon Salad, the director of Medina hospital, the main hospital in the south of Mogadishu.

In Keysaney, the main medical facility in north Mogadishu, 48 people with weapon wounds were brought in over the same period, of whom two died, said Haji Muse Hassan, the head nurse.

Another medical source said 260 weapon-wounded were brought to the various hospitals across the city, of whom 42 died, in the past two weeks. "Those numbers only reflect those that made it to hospitals. Many people don't make it to hospitals and are kept at home by relatives and if they die are buried," he added.

According to eyewitnesses, checkpoints manned by freelance militias, which had disappeared while the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) controlled the city, have reappeared in parts of the city.

The UIC were routed by Ethiopian-backed forces of the Somali Transitional Federal Government in December 2006, after controlling Mogadishu and large parts of the south since June.

"From no guns on the streets to guns everywhere, that is where we are in less than two months," an eyewitness said.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Somalia (OCHA), in a situation report released on Friday, said: "There are reported to be around 15 such checkpoints now, at which civilians are subjected to violence, extortion and intimidation. There are similar reports coming from the Mogadishu-Johwar [north] and Mogadishu-Brava [south] roads."

According to OCHA, there were indications that "there is now a steady flow of IDPs [internally displaced persons] leaving Mogadishu in order to escape the insecurity and violence, particularly from IDP settlements located near TFG and Ethiopian military bases, the port and Digfer hospital".

It cited about 650 families that have reportedly set up temporary shelters at Xaawo-cabdi [on the road to Afgooye].

Local residents said whoever was behind the violence had grown more brazen. Hassan Mahamud Fanah said the explosion that hit the car on Sunday as it was driving past the main Mogadishu stadium was so powerful the passengers died instantly.

At about 2pm local time, masked gunmen attacked a police car in the Huriwa district of north Mogadishu, killing one policeman. "The policemen were trying to buy drinks, when the gunmen attacked," Hassan added.

The violence is not confined to the capital. Reports indicate that the security situation in Lower Shabelle has also deteriorated, with cases of rape, and in Baidoa, where a reporter was killed on Friday.

Abdifatah Geesey, manager of the Baidoa-based radio station Warsan, told IRIN the reporter was killed in cold blood: "Ali [Muhammad Umar] was killed by two unknown gunmen on his way home on Friday night at 8pm [local time]."

Explaining how the situation had affected his station, Geesey said: "By sunset everyone is locking themselves in their homes. I have instructed our night-shift staff to sleep in the station compound for safety reasons."

Radio Warsan, a privately owned station, had been closed several times and only resumed operations 12 days ago. "We were shut down by the government for about a month and were allowed to resume work 12 days ago," Geesey said.



Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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