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SOMALIA: Nearly 60 killed, thousands displaced in Bulo Hawa clashes

NAIROBI, 3 June 2004 (IRIN) - Nearly 60 people have been killed in clashes between rival clans in the southwestern town of Bulo Hawa, humanitarian sources said. About 2,500 families had been displaced in and around the town while another 2,000 people had fled to Mandera in neighbouring Kenya, they added.

Relief workers in Bulo Hawa, Gedo Region, told IRIN by telephone that the latest round of fighting, which took place on Tuesday, was "a continuation of tension between rival clans that had built [up] since May" over control of the local administration.

One of the sources said local NGOs were planning to conduct an assessment of the situation together with local authorities, but could not immediately ascertain the number of those injured. "The death toll as of yesterday was 59, while 52 people have been admitted in hospitals and 24 are in a private compound," the source told IRIN on Thursday.

The dead included a prominent local medical doctor, Muhammad Hasan Ali, who was killed as he left a mosque, and seven children, killed when a bomb they found exploded as they played with it.

The latest fighting pitted an alliance of the Marehan subclans of Hawarsame Rer Hasan and Habar Ya'qub, which dominate Gedo, against the subclans of the Ali Dheere and Rer Ahmad, the sources told IRIN.

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Somalia, which called meetings of various humanitarian agencies and NGOs to discuss how to send help to the displaced and injured, said tension had remained high in the region, although the latest clashes had died down.

"It is a very complicated situation. It is still very tense and we would not be surprised if clashes broke out again anytime," Calum McLean, the head of the OCHA office in Somalia, told IRIN on Thursday. "Nothing has been resolved so far."

McLean appealed to the belligerents to stop fighting and allow humanitarian agencies to reach those who needed help in Gedo. "Humanitarian agencies are meeting under the auspices of OCHA, both in Mandera and in [the Kenyan capital] Nairobi to better coordinate their response," he added.

The Gedo Health Consortium, an umbrella grouping of NGOs active in the region, had sent some medical supplies to hospitals in the region; other help had come from African Medical and Research Foundation, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the UN Children's Fund and other NGOs, McLean said.

Local sources in Bulo Hawa told IRIN that clan elders were trying to calm the situation and resolve the underlying wrangles between the clans.

At least 100 people were killed in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, when other rival clans clashed for several days from 9 May. Hundreds were believed to have been wounded and thousands displaced from their homes.

Bethuel Kiplagat, the Kenyan special envoy to the Somali peace process and chairman of the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development committee spearheading efforts to bring together the various fighting groups in Somalia, expressed "deep concern" over the violence and called for an immediate end to the fighting.

"This senseless conflict is not helpful to the people of Somalia and the ongoing reconciliation conference in Kenya," Kiplagat said in a statement. "We would like to call upon these parties to return to the peace process. We also call upon the traditional leaders and people of goodwill to use their offices to resolve the problem between the conflicting parties," he added.

The UN secretary-general's representative for Somalia, Winston Tubman, and UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Maxwell Gaylard have also urged Somali leaders to resolve their differences peacefully, as agreed in the ongoing peace and reconciliation process.

Theme (s): Conflict,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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