SOMALIA: Thousands displaced as fighting flares in Mogadishu

Published: October 11, 2011

Hundreds of families are on the move in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, after three days of fighting between government troops supported by African Union peacekeeping troops (AMISOM) and Islamist insurgents, local sources told IRIN.
“We don’t have exact numbers but hundreds of families are on the move, particularly from Heliwa, Suuqa Xolaha, Karan [north Mogadishu] and Dayniile [northwest],” Abdullahi Shirwa, head of Somalia’s National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA), told IRIN.
He said many of the families fled their homes after fighting broke out between government forces and Al-Shabab. NDMA was worried about those that were in areas where water and other basic necessities were not available, he added. “There are some who are in areas where there is little or no water and access is not easy.”
Shirwa said some of the displaced were joining thousands of other internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Afgoye Corridor (25km west of Mogadishu) already hosting at least 400,000 IDPs – while others are moving to safer neighbourhoods in the city.
“If the situation improves in the next week, many, if not most, will return to their homes,” he said. “I hope it is temporary.”
Troops of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), supported by AMISOM, began a move on 8 October to clear Al-Shabab from its last remaining strongholds in Mogadishu.
In a statement on 10 October, the Ministry of Information said: “TFG and AMISOM forces have taken control of former Pasta Factory, Ex-Control Balad, Inter SOS junction, Galgalato in Heliwa and Kaaraan districts as part their operations to fully secure Mogadishu.”
It added that this was part of an operation “to take control of the northern corridor and drive the Al Qaeda-linked extremists out of the city”. The fighting has claimed the lives of dozens of civilians.
Displaced again
“Some of the families fleeing are being displaced for the second or third time,” said Awil Hashi of Daryeel Bulsho Baahaan (DBB), a local NGO that works with the displaced.
The displacement is not being fuelled by the fighting alone but by fear that it will spread to other areas, said Hashi. “Many of those fleeing Daynille are not fleeing fighting but the fear that the fighting will come to them.”
Khadra Daud, a mother five, fled to Dayniile in 2007 from Hodan District, south Mogadishu. “I left because it was too dangerous to stay at the time, but now I had to flee Danyniile because the fighting was getting too close.”
Daud said her young daughter died after being hit by a stray bullet “and I don’t want to lose another one”.
She is now back in what is left of her former home in Hodan. “There is no roof and no door but the fence is still standing.”
Hospital closed
Meanwhile, the SOS Mogadishu hospital has been closed for the first in the 20-year civil war, according to the charity that runs it.
Over the past three days, SOS children’s projects in Mogadishu have come under heavy artillery fire. SOS officials said they had evacuated the Children’s Village and SOS Hospital to ensure the safety of all of the children, SOS mothers and staff.
“The clashes have intensified in recent weeks and have affected SOS services in the area,” the charity said in a statement on 11 October. “For the first time since SOS Children set up operations in Mogadishu in 1985, all of our facilities have had to be totally abandoned due to insecurity.”
On 10 October, the charity said, artillery shells hit the SOS Hospital and pharmacy in the city, and Al-Shabab then occupied the hospital, with patients fleeing as staff attempted to move the very sick to safety.
A local journalist, who requested anonymity, told IRIN on 11 October that the hospital and SOS compound were now in the hands of government forces. “Al-Shabab has been cleared from there.”

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