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 Friday 16 November 2007
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SOMALIA: Mounting bloodshed prompts pleas for help from Mogadishu

Photo: Ahmed Yusuf Mohamed/IRIN
A soldier stands near a building destroyed in fighting between the government and insurgents in Mogadishu. Fighting in the city has intensified in the past few days
NAIROBI, 12 November 2007 (IRIN) - Local elders and civil society leaders have urged the international community to help stop the carnage in Mogadishu as heavy fighting in the Somali capital continued, leaving hospitals overwhelmed and many streets littered with bodies.

The clashes pit government forces backed by Ethiopian troops against insurgent remnants of the ousted Union of Islamic Courts and allied clan militias.

"We are appealing to the international community, particularly to the United Nations, to intervene to stop the atrocities being perpetrated in Mogadishu before it is too late," Mohamed Hassan Haad, the chairman of the Hawiye [the predominant clan] elders' council, told IRIN on 12 November.

"Not intervening now means the world has decided to allow the massacres in Mogadishu to go on until everyone is dead," Haad added.

A civil society source, who also requested anonymity, said the situation in the capital has gone from bad to worse. “The world is just watching. I don’t know what they [the international community] are waiting for."

Sources in the capital told IRIN that hospitals have been unable to cope with the deluge of patients arriving since 8 November, when fighting intensified sharply.

"Some of the doctors have been on duty for over 24 hours," said a medical worker in one of the hospitals. "I don't know how long they can continue like this."

He said hospital beds were full and that the injured were mostly civilians - “almost all women and children” - suffering from shrapnel wounds caused by mortars, artillery and Katyusha rockets. "Amazingly, we have seen very few gunshot wounds," the source said.

Another medical source told IRIN that "over 200 people were killed and between 500 and 700 wounded across the city since Thursday [8 November]”.

"There are many more people who are being cared for by relatives or friends in their neighbourhoods," he added. This, he said, was because insecurity on the roads had made it difficult for many to reach hospitals.

Haad expressed concern over the deaths of innocent civilians. "They [allied Ethiopian-Somali forces] are firing artillery and tanks shells in all directions," Haad said.

Madobe Nuunow Mohamed, the minister of information in the transitional government, said insurgents operating and hiding in civilian areas were responsible for the current violence. "These people are attacking our positions from populated areas and sometimes the response by our forces does hit unintended targets."

He said the government regretted the civilian casualties but "blame must be laid at the door of those fighting the government".

Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused both sides of violating the laws of war in killing and wounding civilians in Mogadishu.

"All the warring parties are responsible for ensuring that civilians are not targeted and that they do not impede access to medical treatment and other relief," said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director at HRW, in a statement issued on 9 November.

"The international community should condemn these attacks and hold combatants accountable for violations of humanitarian law - including mutilating captured combatants and executing detainees," Takirambudde said.

Photo: Hassan Mahamud Ahmed/IRIN
A woman at a camp for the internally displaced in Burbishaaro, 20 km north of Mogadishu. Fighting has intensified in the city since 8 November
The increased violence in the city has forced more residents to flee their homes, while many others remained trapped in parts of the city.

"Thousands have left and thousands more people are leaving the city as we speak," Asha Sha'ur Ugas, a member of Mogadishu's civil society groups, said on 12 November.

A local journalist, who requested anonymity, said many more people were trapped in their homes. "People are scared and worried but most cannot leave because most roads are closed by the Ethiopian and Somali government forces."

He said that in parts of the city "there is not a living soul on the streets; the only constant on many streets today are dead bodies".

The city areas mostly affected by the latest violence include Huriwa, Suuqa Hoolaha, Hamar Jadid, and Gubta and Dayniile.


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


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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