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Fighting in Mogadishu: children are the victims


On 28 December 2006, the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Ethiopian troops took over the town of Mogadishu. At the same time, the retreating Union of Islamic Courts and their militia left many dangerous weapons in the hands of the public. Since then, the security situation in Mogadishu has deteriorated considerably, with unknown attackers carrying out hit-and-run attacks on forces loyal to the TFG, and retaliation by Ethiopian troops. Mothers, children and staff at the SOS Children's Village in the town are understandably very nervous.

In Mogadishu, as always, it is the civilians who are the victims, trapped in the crossfire. According to Ahmed Ibrahim, National Director of SOS Children's Villages in Somalia, "Seven people were killed on 1 February, including three children, when a mortar hit a settlement for internally displaced people in Mogadishu’s Hodon District. On 2 February another attack took place in Darmoley, just one kilometre from the SOS Children's Village, where attackers fired mortar bombs at an Ethiopian camp and the Ethiopians fired heavy rockets back. Although SOS mothers, children and co-workers were frightened by the sounds of rockets and bullets passing over the village, no one was injured."

A patient recovers post-operation at the SOS Hospital in Mogadishu

Ibrahim reported that in the last two days, fears have been growing that fighting between the government forces and unknown attackers may spread to the pasta factory, which neighbours the children's village and houses forces opposing the Transitional Federal Government. This has caused tension in the village and affected the movements of staff, students of the nearby SOS School and nursery as well as patients receiving medical assistance at the SOS Hospital. Ibrahim continued, "Elders and community leaders have been trying to convince both parties not to engage in fighting in this heavily populated area."

SOS co-worker injured in crossfire
Apart from military clashes between these forces, Ibrahim says that reports of disorder and anarchy are common in many parts of Mogadishu. This has affected the free movement of people in and out of their homes. According to Ibrahim, "Political assassinations have been reported on a daily basis." In addition, freelance militias have taken control of some areas in Mogadishu, setting up roadblocks in which they demand money from drivers. In one incident last Sunday (4 February), Mrs Faduma Sheikh, one of the teachers at the SOS Nursery, was caught in crossfire and wounded in the shoulder as she was returning home from work. She was taken to the International Red Cross Hospital, where she was treated and is now recovering.

Abdimalik Mohammed, assistant administrator at the SOS Hospital, said that staff are running the hospital with minimal resources and medicines as a result of ECHO (European Commission Humanitarian Office, which transports drugs from Nairobi) flights to Mogadishu stopping nearly three weeks ago due to disputes over landing fee payments. Talks are underway to resolve the problem but in the meantime, doctors and nurses continue to do their very best under the circumstances.

Hope for the future
Ibrahim concluded, "The children, mothers and other co-workers are scared and believe things might worsen in the future if steps to foster peace and reconciliation are not taken by all the parties involved in Somalia's politics." He continued: "Under international pressure to reach out to all parties in Somalia, including moderate Islamic groups, powerful clans, and members of civil society, the president agreed to call a broader reconciliation conference. In this regard there is hope that many Mogadishu residents will see the situation improve in the near future."

Relevant Countries: Somalia.

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