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UN: Civilians in Somalia Increasingly at Risk

The United Nations refugee agency says it is extremely worried about the worsening situation for the civilian population in Somalia. It says thousands of civilians are once again exposed to relentless and indiscriminate fighting in the capital Mogadishu and elsewhere in the country.

The U.N. refugee agency estimates more than 100,000 Somali civilians have been forced to flee their homes across the country since the beginning of the year.

At least 50 people reportedly have been killed in the last three days of fighting in Mogadishu. UNHCR spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, says the latest fighting between government forces and the al-Shabab militia is concentrated in Mogadishu's northern suburbs.

"We are especially concerned about the safety and well being of some 8,300 people who, without any means to get out of Mogadishu, remain displaced within the capital," he said. "As the fighting is raging on, the aid agencies cannot access and assist these people, these extremely vulnerable internally displaced," said Mahecic.

The UNHCR reports since February about 33,0000 Somalis have been driven out of their homes by the continuing conflict in Mogadishu. It says almost 14,000 of them have fled to Afgooye corridor, about 30 kilometers west of Mogadishu.

Mahecic says the new arrivals are jammed in makeshift settlements, which already are home to over 366,000 internally displaced. He says aid agencies have limited access to these people because of the dangerous security situation.

"Basically, whenever there is an opportunity to push the aid through, that is what is going on," he explained. "It is important to ensure that the assistance reaches those for whom it is intended. In that regard, we have stringent mechanisms in place to monitor and evaluate the distributions, including increased field missions as well as the missions by our partners and UNHCR staff to the distribution sites," said Mahecic.

Meanwhile, the UNHCR reports nearly 10,000 new Somali refugees who have fled to Kenya have been registered over the first nine weeks of this year. Mahecic says the agency is concerned the ongoing violence in Somalia will prompt many more people to flee across the border.

He says this will put further strain on the overcrowded Dadaab refugee complex in northern Kenya, which already is hosting some 270,000 refugees.