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New Violence in Somali Capital as UN Elevates Displacement Figure to 1.5M

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New Violence in Somali Capital as UN Elevates Displacement Figure to 1.5M

Posted by Amanda Hsiao on September 8, 2009

There were reports of fresh fighting in the Somali capital of Mogadishu over the weekend, as the U.N. refugee agency released new stats about displacement caused by violence in the volatile country.

Clashes throughout the weekend between the transitional Somali government, backed by African Union forces, and insurgents from the extremist group al-Shabaab left over a dozen civilians dead and more than 50 wounded, according to news reports. The violence began Friday when government soldiers, hoping to recapture territory from Shabaab, attacked an insurgent base with mortars and machine guns. Retaliatory attacks from the insurgent group followed, continuing into Monday night when heavy exchanges of gun fire occurred near a base used by African peacekeepers.

These latest attacks are a continuation of a particularly violent spell that began in May between the transitional government and the Shabaab over control of Mogadishu. Four months of intense fighting have left hundreds dead, contributing to a total of 1.5 million Somalis currently displaced from their homes, according to updated U.N. figures UNHCR spokesperson Roberta Russo told VOA that since the first of July, 95,000 Somalis have been displaced from their homes, with 77,000 from Mogadishu. The majority of the displaced have resettled 30 kilometers from the city in the Afgooye corridor, where clean water, medical facilities and sanitation are in severe shortage. Said Russo, “Basically, they need everything.”

As civilians continue to bear the brunt of the suffering in what looks increasingly to be a protracted fight, the need for an internationally-backed peace process is ever more urgent.


Photo: Displaced Somalis wait in line at a food distribution center.