Fighting displaces thousands in Middle Shabelle

Hundreds of families from villages in Somalia's Bal'ad District, in Middle Shabelle Region, have been displaced following recent fighting between African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces and Al-Shabab insurgents, say officials.

"Our settlements are now the front line between the AMISOM/TFG alliance forces and Al-Shabab and we don't know where to go," Hussein Mayow, a father of six, told IRIN.

The displacement followed 25 June clashes in Bal'ad, about 40km northwest of Mogadishu, with the worst affected areas being the villages of Wala-Moy and Hamar-Daye, said an official with the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Youth and Sport, who preferred anonymity.

Wala-Moy residents were displaced in an Al-Shabab retaliatory attack following civil strife there. "Al-Shabab forces came [to] the village and killed the man who led the civil disobedience and wounded two others and the other people fled from the village to the neighbouring forest[ed] areas," the official said.

"About 560 families, out of the 1,000 families displaced by the war in Bal'ad, have now reached Mogadishu and the remainder are in villages such as Mukudhere, Hawadlay and Jame'ad and no aid has been distributed yet," said Sheikh Ahmed Sheikh Abukar, a TFG member of parliament.

Abukar said displaced people now need "shelter, food and non-food items".

At least 18,000 people were reported to have fled following the start of an AMISOM/TFG military operation in the Afgooye corridor, near Mogadishu, on 22 May, according to a 16-30 May Somalia update by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).