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Somali Human Rights Groups Say Violence Escalating


A Somali human rights group says explosions and gun battles in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, killed and wounded scores of civilians on Monday, making it one of the bloodiest days there in recent months. As VOA correspondent Alisha Ryu reports from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi, the upsurge in violence happened as Human Rights Watch released a report on Somalia.

The chairman of the independent Somali group Elman Human Rights tells VOA that his organization conducted a survey of hospitals and various neighborhoods in Mogadishu to see how many civilians had been killed and wounded in Monday's violence.

Sudan Ali Ahmed says his group counted 31 dead and 60 others wounded - the latest victims in an escalating conflict that began eight months ago, shortly after neighboring Ethiopia helped Somalia's secular Transitional Federal Government topple radical Islamists from power.

"The casualties have been in the last day in Mogadishu very, very high," he said. "The civilians are killed, without justification, by Ethiopian troops, the TFG troops, and the opposition, who are fighting the government."

Ahmed says insurgents, who have vowed to wage a guerrilla war until Ethiopian troops leave Somalia, triggered the fighting by attacking government bases early in the day.

The attacks were followed by a roadside bombing, which targeted a government vehicle passing through a neighborhood in the north of the city. Witnesses say Ethiopian soldiers, who were near the site of the blast, opened fire and killed at least nine civilians.

Other casualties occurred after a bomb attack on a public minibus and insurgents, armed with guns and grenades, fought with police in the streets.

Somalia descended into chaos in 1991 after factional leaders overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and carved up the country into personal fiefdoms.

Having survived more than 15 years of civil war, Mogadishu residents are some of the most resilient people in the world. But Ahmed says he believes many have lost hope for any peace in their volatile city.

"If there is good life, there is good hope," he said. " But if there is no good life, there is no hope. Right now, they are hopeless."

Fighting in Mogadishu raged as the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch issued a report, denouncing all parties in the Somali conflict for violating humanitarian law. The report called Mogadishu a city under siege and criticized donor countries for not intervening more forcefully.

On Monday, Britain proposed the deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force in Somalia to take over for an African Union mission, which has struggled to raise troops.

Only about 1,500 peacekeeping troops from Uganda are in Somalia. The United Nations is now under pressure to deploy a well-equipped force that can stabilize the country.

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