30 March 2012

Somalia: Al Shabaab Targets IDPs

Photo: Capital FM
Al Shabaab members.

The international community yesterday called for respect of civilian life and humanitarian agencies in Mogadishu as mortar attacks continued in the Somali capital, leading to the deaths of three people.

It was the latest indication that the simmering row and sporadic border calshes between Ethiopia and Eritrea was taking its toll on the UN-African Union Mission (AMISOM) operation in Somalia.

Already, fears that the Ethiopian army withdrawal in April might slow down the momentum of the AMISOM forces have emerged with the A Shabaab militia re-entering the capital to carry out attacks.

Addis Ababa has indicated that it will withdraw its troops in the light of its renewed hostilities with its arch-rival Eritrea. This is a cause of worry for both the region and the AMISOM since Ethiopian troops provided the attacking force of the AU forces which comprise of Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti and Kenya.

According to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), several mortars landed in the Beerta Darawiishta settlement for internally displaced persons (IDPs) near the Somali Parliament building on Monday morning in the on going violence.

A statement sent to The New Times stated that three IDPs were killed, including a father and his three-year-old child, and another eight people were seriously wounded.

Until late last year, the Somali capital had been riven by a fluid frontline dividing two sides - fighters belonging to the Al Shabaab militia and troops belonging to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), with the latter supported by AMISOM forces. Since the Al Shabaab's withdrawal from the central parts of Mogadishu in August 2011, the frontlines have been pushed back to the city's outskirts. But the situation is still far from secure, with the use of roadside bombs, grenades and suicide bombers a regular occurrence, and on the rise.

"The target of the attack is believed to have been pro-government forces near the parliament building," said the statement from the UNHCR statement. "However, just as in a similar attack last week on the presidential palace Villa Somalia... the mortars did not reach the intended target and instead landed among IDPs."

It also said there were additional mortar attacks on Villa Somalia and elsewhere over the weekend, but that no casualties had been registered.

Anti-government forces have reportedly instructed IDPs to move away from areas surrounding presidential offices as they intend to continue the attacks.

The UNHCR also noted that pro-government forces are implementing practices to reduce the impact of indirect fire on the civilian population, such as when civilians were given advance notice of a recent military activity in the Afgooye corridor, on Mogadishu's outskirts, which allowed them to vacate the area safely.

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