Members of a European Commission delegation that visited Somalia last week have announced that 5,000 people have been wounded by fighting between Ethiopian troops and Islamist-led insurgents in the capital Mogadishu since the start of the year. As Derek Kilner reports from VOA's East Africa Bureau in Nairobi, the violence has driven tens of thousands of people from the capital in recent days.
At a press conference in Nairobi, European Commission officials reported on their evaluation of the worsening humanitarian crisis in Somalia.
Aadrian Sullivan, of the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department's Regional Support Office, says recent fighting has increased humanitarian dangers, especially in the south-central part of the country around Mogadishu.
"Southern Central Somalia has notably been affected by a successive wave of shocks," said Sullivan. "They started essentially with a drought. You then had conflict, you have had floods, you have had displacement of people due to epidemics. And this current situation is just another issue that communities in Somalia have to cope with."
The delegation reports that hospitals in Mogadishu have treated about 5,000 people for wounds suffered during fighting since the start of 2007. This is roughly double the figure for the same period last year.
In January, Ethiopian troops backing the transitional government regained control of Mogadishu from armed Islamists. But since then the Islamists have led an Iraq-style insurgency that the government has been unable to contain.
The intensity of fighting has grown since Ethiopian troops launched a renewed offensive on Thursday. An estimated 114,000 people have fled Mogadishu since late October. And while precise estimates of deaths are not available, various reports of the number killed in the past week range from 60 to over 80.
On Monday, Ethiopian troops closed the large Bakara market while they searched for insurgents suspected of hiding there. And government authorities shut down the popular Shabelle radio station briefly detaining two of its staff.
The actions follow a shelling attack Sunday by insurgents on Ethiopian soldiers guarding the president's villa. Local media also reported large crowds demonstrating Sunday against the presence of Ethiopian troops.
Meanwhile, President Abdullahi Yusuf continues to search for a new prime minister for his embattled government. Ali Mohammed Gedi resigned late last month after falling out with the President.