Monday, April 2, 2007

Somalia: Hundreds killed as civilian deaths mount

Civilian deaths mount in Mogadishu

Earlier on Friday, armed groups shot down
an Ethiopian helicopter [Reuters]

Violence has continued in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, for a third day, in what the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has called "the worst fighting in more than 15 years".

Corpses lay in the streets on Saturday as ongoing fighting and mortar fire made it difficult to retrieve bodies or tally the dead.

Residents said hundreds were believed to have been killed across the city of one million people.

"We don't know where to go. We are trapped in our houses and dead bodies are lying in the street," AFP reported Ibrahim Duale, a resident in the southern Ali Kamin area, as saying

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"There is no chance of taking the wounded and dead people because of the heavy artillery and anti-aircraft weapons," he said.

Salado Yebarow, another Mogadishu resident, was reported by Reuters as saying: "I have been here 16 years and never seen anything like this.

"The whole city is being shelled indiscriminately."

Armed groups in Mogadishu, made up of the remnants of the Islamic Courts fighters and a number of clan militias, have fired mortars from inside residential areas.

Ethiopian troops, backing Somalia's weak interim-government, have used heavy artillery to shell the insurgents' positions inside those areas.

Caught in the crossfire

The ICRC said in a statement on Friday: "The population of Mogadishu is caught up in the worst fighting in more than 15 years."

Earlier on Friday, armed groups shot down an Ethiopian helicopter. A number of Ethiopian soldiers were also said to have been killed on Thursday, with witnesses reporting some of the bodies were dragged through the streets.

"Whoever is doing this is not human. They have clearly never had a grandmother or children to think about"

Salado Yebarow,
Mogadishu resident

Ethiopia's information ministry had said in a statement broadcast on Ethiopian television, that its military had killed hundreds of armed opponents during a major offensive in the capital.

"Ethiopia has killed 200 armed remnants of the Islamic Courts Union and wounded many others," the statement said.

Somalia's envoy to Ethiopia told reporters on Friday that the attacks were only targeting "insurgent strongholds" in the capital where local elders had failed to convince fighters to disarm.

But most Mogadishu residents believed neither side was concerned for families caught in the crossfire.

"Whoever is doing this is not human. They have clearly never had a grandmother or children to think about," Yebarow said.

Governments play a "shameful role"

Meanwhile, an international rights organisation has accused the governments of Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and the US of secretly detaining hundreds of people fleeing the conflict in Somalia.

"Each of these governments has played a shameful role in mistreating people fleeing a war zone," Georgette Gagnon, deputy Africa director for Human Rights Watch (HRW), said on Saturday.

One resident said the city was being
"shelled indiscriminately"[AFP]
"Dozens of people have effectively disappeared into Ethiopian detention facilities.

"It's imperative that the Ethiopians acknowledge the people they are holding and permit independent international access to them."

HRW also said Kenya had arrested people fleeing violence in Somalia and detained some of them incommunicado and "secretly expelled" others.

"At least 85 people were then secretly deported from Kenya to Somalia in what appears to be a joint rendition operation," HRW said in its statement.

The rights group also said that "US security agents have routinely interrogated people held incommunicado".

HRW said the US and other national intelligence services interrogated several foreign nationals while they were being detained in Nairobi, Kenya's capital, where they were also denied access to legal counsel and their consular representatives.

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