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Thousands Flee Street Battles in Mogadishu


The U.N. refugee agency reports more than 17,000 people have been displaced from their homes this month in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. The UNHCR says most of them have fled in the past two weeks alone, following heavy fighting.

The UN refugee agency says renewed fighting between Somali government forces supported by the African Union Peace Keeping Force and armed opposition groups once again has forced thousands of civilians in Mogadishu to flee for their lives.

Field reports estimate at least 60 people have been killed and more than 50 wounded and injured in street clashes over the past two weeks. The UNHCR says these ongoing clashes have displaced more than 200,000 people since the beginning of the year.

Spokesman Andrej Mahecic says the majority of the 14,300 Somalis who were forced to flee from their homes in the past two weeks are displaced within the capital.

"Mogadishu already shelters more than 350,000 internally displaced people," he said. "The number of displaced families, living in the streets of Mogadishu in extreme conditions is gradually increasing, according to reports we received from our partners. Many families are in desperate situations, stuck in the embattled city. They cannot afford transport to the makeshift camps in the Afgooye corridor, already hosting 366,000 IDPs, which is just 15 kilometers west of Mogadishu."

Mahecic says some lucky families are living with relatives or friends in relatively safer neighborhoods of the capital. But he says these living arrangements are difficult, with an average of three families crammed into a single place of accommodation.

"According to our partners, many more are on their own in the streets of Mogadishu, settling under a plastic sheet or whatever material they can find to build a roof," he said. "These are the most vulnerable, and utterly dependent on scarce aid the humanitarian agencies manage to deliver and meager remittances from the relatives living abroad. Hundreds of children are forced to beg in the streets of the capital and many women beg in the main markets."

Most of the displaced are in Mogadishu and in central and southern Somalia. Mahecic says some Somalis are crossing the borders into neighboring countries. But he notes it is becoming more difficult to move out of these areas because two militant Islamic groups control the south, and most people cannot afford to go elsewhere.






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