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SOMALIA: Dozens killed, thousands displaced in renewed fighting in Mogadishu

NAIROBI, 9 June 2008 (IRIN) - An estimated 100 people were killed and thousands fled their homes in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, over the weekend following renewed fighting between Ethiopian troops and insurgents, local sources told IRIN.

Another 200 people were reportedly wounded in the clashes, which started on
19 April, hospital sources said.

"Sunday [8 June] was the most intense, with the three main hospitals recording over 100 injured," a medical source reported.

The numbers, he said, reflect only those who made it to city hospitals in Madina [in the south], Keysaney [in the north] and Dayniile [northwest].

"There was so much shelling that no one was able to pick up the dead or take the injured to hospital," the source said. "Our rough estimate is that close to 50 have died and over 200 are injured."

However, he cautioned, "the real number of dead and injured may not be known for days" because many people could not access hospitals, while many were buried where they died, he added.

He said many of those brought to hospital were women and children.

He added, "In Madina hospital, we have a woman and her four children aged between 18 months and eight years, with shrapnel wounds. The mother is a very critical condition."

The fighting was mostly concentrated in the districts of Wardigley in the south, and Yaqshid in north Mogadishu, according to a local journalist.

He said Bakara market, the country's largest open air market, was hardest hit. "More than 40 shells landed in the market and the area around it."

The fighting started when combined Ethiopian and Somali government forces moved into areas in Yaqshid and Wardigley and tried to establish control, said the journalist.

"That is when the two sides clashed, and it has continued through Sunday,"
he added.

An estimated 2.6 million Somalis need assistance. The figure is expected to reach 3.5 million by the end of the year if the humanitarian situation does not improve, according to the UN.

The fighting between Ethiopian-backed Somali forces and insurgents has forced up to one million Somalis to flee their homes, while an estimated 6,500 civilians have been killed since 2007.

The escalation in the fighting at the weekend comes as UN sponsored peace talks were held between Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and an Eritrea-based opposition alliance in Djibouti; they made no progress.

Representatives of Somalia's civil society said they were talking to both sides to break the deadlock.

"We are appealing to both sides to show flexibility in order to resolve their differences," Asha Sahur, a member of the civil society, told IRIN.

Sahur said the weekend fighting in Mogadishu called for "an added urgency in their deliberations".

She said that their colleagues were reporting that thousands were displaced and many more were trapped in their homes "and could not even go out to buy basic essentials".

Many of the newly displaced were people who had returned from camps outside the city or had been previously displaced within the city.

Sahur called on both sides "to think about the suffering of their people and put a stop to this".

A government official, who requested anonymity, said the fighting was regrettable but said the government forces were trying to establish control over those parts of the city.

"It came at the wrong time [when talks are going on in Djibouti]," he said.

The fighting reportedly subsided on 9 June, with public transport resuming for the first time in three days in the affected areas.

ah/jm

Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs

[ENDS]

Copyright © IRIN 2008
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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