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More People Flee Mogadishu as Fighting Rages

The U.N. refugee agency said thousands of people continue to flee from fierce fighting between government and rebel forces in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. The UNHCR reported that the number of people forced from their homes since fighting erupted on May 8 now has topped 91,000.

The U.N. refugee agency said people in Mogadishu are scattering and seeking a place of refuge. It estimated 34,000 displaced people are still in the city. It said they are looking for shelter in more secure areas because they have no means to leave the strife-torn city.

The UNHCR said some 25,000 have managed to flee. And they have gone to makeshift sites in the so-called Afgooye corridor about 30 kilometers southeast of Mogadishu. They join 400,000 people displaced by earlier fighting in the capital.

UNHCR spokesman, Ron Redmond, said the remaining 32,000 have fled to other parts of Somalia. He said some of them also are making their way towards neighboring countries.

"According to our local partners in Somalia, some 2,000 people have indicated that they plan to cross the border into Kenya. More than a thousand said they are ready to risk their lives and make the perilous journey with smugglers across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen," he said. "And, about 600 people, contacted in this rather informal survey, told our local partners that they were heading towards Ethiopia," Redmond said.

The UNHCR said an average of 100 Somalis cross into Kenya every day. But, that number has almost doubled over the past week. Since the beginning of the year, it reported almost 32,000 people have crossed into Kenya.

In all, Redmond said the total number of Somali refugees in Kenya is now almost 297,000. He said most are staying in the Dadaab refugee camp, which is one of the biggest, most congested camps in the world.

He said the UNHCR and its partners have just completed the first phase of an aid distribution operation south of Mogadishu. He said 12,600 people received non-food relief items including plastic sheeting, sleeping bags and blankets.

He said the next phase of the program, a distribution for almost 30,000 people, was supposed to have got underway earlier this week on the southeastern outskirts of Mogadishu. But, he said it was stopped because of fighting between rebel groups and government forces.