Heavy fighting between pro-Islamic State (IS) militants and Somalia's Puntland state forces for the control of the port town of Qandala has displaced 25, 700 people since late October, a UN body said Wednesday.
The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said a majority of the displaced were women, children and the elderly, adding that most of the displaced had moved to surrounding villages, while others have sought refuge in Bossaso, 75 kilometers from Qandala.
Meanwhile, a Punland state official said their forces took control of the northern Somali town from the militants earlier on Wednesday.
"Humanitarian partners and local authorities are concerned that the situation will deteriorate further if the displacement becomes protracted," the OCHA said in its report.
Puntland forces on December 3 launched the operation to retake the northern Somali town, which was taken by the pro-IS group on October 26. Local residents reported fighting between the two sides near the town in the past days. The OCHA said some 3,000 people had been newly displaced since December 3.
It also said all humanitarian activities in the area had been suspended. However, Puntland authorities have called on residents displaced from the town to return to their homes. The pro-IS group split from Somalia's Islamist group Al-Shabaab in October 2015. Al-Shabaab has been battling the Somali government for a decade.