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SOMALIA: Families flee escalating violence

NAIROBI, 8 October 2007 (IRIN) - Armed opponents of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) have increased their attacks on government targets in the capital, Mogadishu, killing at least four officials over the weekend, local sources said on 8 October.

The attacks and the response by the Ethiopian-backed government troops have led to more people being displaced, a local journalist, who requested anonymity, said.

"They [insurgents] have intensified their attacks on government forces and positions in the month of Ramadan," the journalist told IRIN. "At least 15 well-coordinated attacks on various government forces positions [took place]."

The TFG deputy attorney-general, Abdulkadir Mohamed Sheik, a senior security official and two municipal officials were among those killed.

Government forces have also increased their operations in parts of the city, leading to more people fleeing in fear of attacks, he said.

"The attacks and the operations by the government forces are forcing people to flee entire neighbourhoods," said the journalist.

The worst affected areas in the last three days were Gubta in the northwest and Yaqshid in the north of the city. There were reports that the TFG had ordered Yaqshid and Towfiq residents to move out of their homes on suspicion that they were supporting the insurgents, he said.

However, Information Minister Madobe Nuunow Mohamed denied the reports.

"It is not government policy to move people from their homes," he said. Some residents fearing being caught in the crossfire between government forces and insurgents may opt to leave a particular area, "but no one is forced out".

Some of the displaced are moving to safer neighbourhoods in the city while others are leaving the city altogether, the journalist said.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA-Somalia) said many residents had moved from the north to join other family members in the relatively calmer southern part of the city, "burdening already impoverished families".

Meanwhile, a fire which broke out on 2 October at the Bakara market, the main business centre of Mogadishu and one of the largest open air markets in the East Africa region, destroyed the livelihoods of many small traders, said a civil society source in Mogadishu.

"Almost 60 to 70 percent of small traders lost everything." He said insecurity around the market had meant fewer people coming to the market. "This fire has just killed what is left of their livelihoods," he added.

OCHA said many casual labourers at the market had lost their main source of income and reduced food supplies to the rest of the country would increase demand, hence weakening the purchasing power of the already stretched communities.

"Somali citizens are already reeling from basic food cost increases due to increased transport expenses [linked to checkpoints and ad hoc ‘taxes’] and spiralling inflation," added OCHA.

The government has set up a cabinet committee to assist those affected by the fire. "The committee will come up with a plan [within days] to help those who lost their businesses in the fire," said Mohamed.

Since intense fighting between Ethiopian-backed government troops and insurgents began in February, at least 1,000 people reportedly have been killed and more than 400,000 displaced.

ah/mw

[ENDS]

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.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.



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