Hundreds flee Mogadishu clashes

2012-02-16 18:37
Thousands of Somalis are fleeing their homes because they fear a military offensive by African Union troops allied to the weak Somali government. (Farah Abdi Warsameh, AP)

Thousands of Somalis are fleeing their homes because they fear a military offensive by African Union troops allied to the weak Somali government. (Farah Abdi Warsameh, AP) (Farah Abdi Warsameh)

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Mogadishu - Hundreds of Somalis fled their homes Thursday fearing clashes after African Union troops attacked holdout Islamist Shabaab militia positions in the south of the war-wracked capital Mogadishu.

Columns of loaded vehicles headed into the city from Elashabiyaha and KM13 districts on Mogadishu's outskirts, as AU forces moved into positions they seized from the al-Qaeda-linked rebels this week after heavy fighting.

The neighbourhoods lie on the road to rebel-held Afgoye town, some 30km northwest of Mogadishu, which the AU forces have said they also plan to attack.

"Hundreds of displaced people are returning to Mogadishu fearing fighting in the Afgoye corridor," Moalim Abudule, an administrative official, told reporters.

"We are receiving many of them here in Dharkinley district, but unfortunately we have no proper shelters to assist them."

The 10 000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) force has been fighting to secure Mogadishu, six months after the Shabaab abandoned fixed bases there and resorted to guerrilla attacks including suicide and car bombings.

"People are worried about the new phase of the war. Amisom and TFG [government] troops are now heading towards [Afgoye] corridor, forcing us to flee back to Mogadishu," said Abdirisak Adan.

Many Mogadishu residents had fled to the Afgoye area, which hosts hundreds of thousands of displaced people, in the wake of intense battles between the AU troops and the rebels in recent years.

The UN declared camps in Afgoye and in Mogadishu to be famine zones last year, but said the situation had improved earlier this month out of famine conditions.

The insurgents are facing increasing pressure from the AU troops and regional armies, with Kenyan soldiers battling them in the far south and Ethiopian troops in southwestern Somalia.

Much of south and central Somalia still remains under Shabaab control.

Last month, the AU asked the United Nations for a mandate to boost its Somalia deployment to 17 731 troops, above the currently authorised maximum of 12 000.

Read more on:    al-shabaab  |  amisom  |  somalia  |  east africa
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