Condemning the recent murders of women and children in clan-related conflicts in southern Somalia, a senior United Nations official today called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
"This is a very disturbing trend and one that has shocked the communities themselves, for both the unusual brutality of the killings and the intentional targeting of women and children," said Maxwell Gaylard, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia.
Several incidents were confirmed to Mr. Gaylard during a visit last week to Xudur and Waajid villages in the Bakool region of southwestern Somalia, including the horrific killing in December of 10 women in the vicinity of Bay region.
The atrocity was reportedly committed by a militia group of one of the two major sub-clans of the area, apparently in revenge for earlier killings. Other incidents of the abduction and rape of women and children have also been reported to the UN and local human rights organizations, Mr. Gaylard's Nairobi-based office said.
At a Waajid assembly of elders pursuing peace negotiations, Mr. Gaylard called on Somali leaders to take all possible steps to end the cycle of violence, in particular to safeguard the security and welfare of unarmed civilians, including women and children, and to bring to justice those who have committed crimes against unarmed civilians.
He also welcomed a ceasefire negotiated by elders in the region, and expressed his hope that this would lead to more sustained peace and security.