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Fresh fighting forces thousands more to flee homes in Somalia

Fresh fighting forces thousands more to flee homes in Somalia

The United Nations refugee agency today reported that renewed violence has forced 10,000 people to flee Mogadishu over the last week, reversing a trend where those displaced from the conflict-torn Somali capital had been returning.

In the months of June and July, 20,000 people have returned to Mogadishu, but nearly 21,000 people have fled the daily violence during that period and the pace is rising, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a news release.

There are now more people fleeing the capital daily than people arriving – 10,000 have left in the last week, the agency estimated.

Only 125,000 of the approximately 400,000 civilians who fled the heavy fighting that raged in Mogadishu between February and May have returned to the capital, according to figures compiled by UNHCR and its partners.

The opening of the National Reconciliation Congress on 14 July has been followed by a series of deadly attacks targeting locations where the conference, which was suspended for several days, is taking place. The attacks have wounded and killed innocent bystanders, including children, and prompted scores of others to flee.

“People are leaving the parts of the city where violence intensified in recent days, such as Suqa Hoolaha, Mogadishu Stadium and Ali Kamin, as well as around the industrial street,” a UNHCR staff member reported from Mogadishu.

While some families have come back to Mogadishu over the past weeks, hoping the violence would diminish, many are considering leaving once more, the agency reported, pointing out that attacks launched by anti-Government elements wound and kill civilians daily, while the counter-attacks made by forces of the Ethiopian-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) often result in civilian deaths.

Some families cannot even afford to flee Mogadishu as they are too poor to pay for transportation. Such is the case for many of the 3,000 internally displaced persons who have been evicted by the authorities from public buildings where they used to live, sometimes for as long as 16 years.

The United Nations has asked the TFG to halt the evictions and to help provide basic services and find alternative solutions for these displaced people.

Last month, UNHCR airlifted relief items from its stockpile in Dubai to Mogadishu. This assistance, which includes blankets, plastic sheets, jerry cans, and kitchen sets, will be delivered to the most vulnerable people in the city.