Somali civilians bearing brunt of latest upsurge in fighting – UN agency

2 October 2009

Somali civilians are bearing the brunt in the latest upsurge in fighting in the country’s troubled south central region, the United Nations refugee agency said today, adding that 145 people have reportedly been killed and another 285 injured in heavy clashes in September alone.

Yesterday, the opposition Al Shabaab group said it had taken control of the southern city of Kismayo from its former ally, Hisb-ul-Islam. According to hospital sources, some 12 people were killed and 50 others injured, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported.

Fighting since early May between Government forces and Al Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam has displaced around 160,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country.

UNHCR said that the rate of displacement had diminished over the last two months, as compared to May and June, but it is still high, with 17,000 people uprooted last month alone.

“We are extremely concerned about the dire humanitarian situation of hundreds of thousands of civilians who have been displaced by the continuing conflict in Somalia,” UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters in Geneva.

“Should the fighting between Al Shabaab and Hisb-ul-Islam escalate, we fear that more than half a million internally displaced people in the Afgooye corridor, some 30 kilometres south of Mogadishu, could be affected and uprooted once again,” he said.

Mr. Mahecic added that insecurity in the Afgooye area is already significantly limiting humanitarian access to the IDPs, but the situation could further deteriorate, making it even more difficult for Somali and international humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance to people in need.

UNHCR provides protection and assistance to more than 515,000 Somali refugees in the nearby countries of Kenya, Yemen, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda. There are also more than 1.5 million IDPs in the country and the number is constantly increasing.

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