Indiscriminant attacks in Mogadishu by both Islamist insurgents and the African Union-supported Somali government continue to brutalize civilians, warned both the U.N. and an international human rights organization in the past week.
"I am deeply disturbed by the plight of civilians in Mogadishu, who are caught amidst the warring parties," said the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia Mark Bowden in response to shelling last Monday in the Somali capital that killed more than 20 civilians and injured 76—acts that Bowden called “clear violations of the law of war."
Human Rights Watch described a similarly dire situation for Mogadishu residents in its new report, as fighting between the Transitional Federal Government, or TFG (with the support of the African Union Mission in Somalia, or AMISOM), and Islamist militias rages on:
Civilians in Mogadishu continue to bear the brunt of the fighting, which has long been characterized by indiscriminate attacks by all sides. Opposition fighters have unlawfully deployed in densely populated civilian neighborhoods and at times used civilians as “shields” to fire mortars at TFG and AMISOM positions—attacks conducted so indiscriminately that they frequently destroy civilian homes but rarely strike military targets. Often AMISOM or TFG forces respond in kind, launching indiscriminate mortar strikes on the neighborhoods from which opposition fighters had fired and then fled—leaving only civilians to face the devastation that ensues.
The report emphasizes that such attacks, even when committed in reciprocity, are a breach of the conduct of war and international humanitarian law. According to Human Rights Watch, although both AMISOM and the government deny indiscriminately firing on civilians, neither party has detailed the measures taken to ensure that attacks are only aimed at military targets.
Countless civilians have already fallen victim to the fighting in Somalia. According to the U.N. humanitarian coordinator, the month of March was particularly deadly: more than 900 civilians were wounded as a result of fighting, including 100 children under five. In addition, the United Nations estimates that in the past two and a half months nearly 100,000 people have been forced to flee their homes.
Jennifer Altoff contributed to this post.
Photo: Islamist militia in Somalia. (AP)