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UNHCR Shocked By Casualties in Mogadishu

  • Lisa Schlein

The UN refugee agency condemns, what it calls, the victimization of civilians in Somalia. The UNHCR says it is shocked by the heavy loss of civilian lives seen in fighting in the Somali capital, Mogadishu earlier this week.

The UN refugee agency reports more than 30 people were killed, many of them civilians including children in the fighting that erupted in Mogadishu between the government and Islamic rebels.

UNHCR spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, says local sources report medical facilities are overstretched and are having difficulties coping with the many wounded.

"The residents who have described to us there that the shelling that took place was among the worst in months… We believe it is unacceptable that the conflict in Somalia continues to be conducted without respect for the safety of civilians and in clear violation of international humanitarian and human rights principles," Fleming said. "We urge the parties to the conflict to avoid targeting civilian facilities in heavy populated areas of Mogadishu, which already shelter more than 300,000 internally displaced people."

Fleming says initial reports indicate the latest violence has displaced at least 500 people. So far this year, she says fighting in and around Mogadishu has caused more than 100,000 people to flee their homes.

She says most people have fled to the relative safety of internally displaced camps in the Afgooye corridor, some 30 kilometers west of the capital.

The UNHCR calls the situation of the displaced alarming. It notes these people have been impoverished by years of conflict and what little reserves they have left are quickly running out.

In addition, it says persistent fighting and generalized violence makes it dangerous and difficult for aid agencies to provide humanitarian assistance to the tens of thousands of vulnerable and needy.

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