SOMALIA: UN envoy calls for end to hostilities

NAIROBI, 10 May 2006 (IRIN) - The United Nations envoy for Somalia, Francois Lonseny Fall, has urged leaders in the Somali capital to consider "the fear and chaos for those civilians trapped in the crossfire" and end hostilities that have bloodied the streets of Mogadishu.

"The indiscriminate use of heavy machine guns, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and artillery in and between urban areas is unacceptable," he said. "By taking their grievances to the streets, these armed groups have effectively unleashed a war on their own people. I appeal to leaders on both sides to step back from the brink and reconsider the damage they are inflicting on the population."

Since 7 May, Mogadishu has been rocked by fighting that initially pitted militias loyal to Mogadishu militia leader Nur Daqle against those led by the chairman of the Islamic courts, Shaykh Sharif Shaykh Ahmed. Daqle and Ahmed belong to the Agoon Yar subclan of the Abgal community. What started as an internal feud soon became a battle between the Islamic courts and the newly created Alliance for Peace and the Fight Against International Terrorism, which comprises several Mogadishu-based faction leaders.

Hundreds of families have been displaced by the fighting and sought refuge in other parts of the city, while others have left the city altogether, residents said. "Parts of Si Si [the epicentre of the fighting] Arjantiina and Sanaa are completely empty today [Wednesday]," said a local journalist, who requested anonymity.

The death toll continued to rise on Wednesday, as fighting in the city abated and a tally of those killed or injured could be taken, according to hospital sources. "Since the beginning of the fighting, 95 people have been confirmed dead," a doctor said. Another 229 people were receiving medical attention in various hospitals and makeshift clinics in the capital.

Meanwhile, the Islamic court called for a unilateral ceasefire on Tuesday evening, after appeals from elders, religious leaders and civil-society groups to stop the fighting, said Abdullahi Shirwa, a member of Civil Society in Action who was part of the team that met with Islamic court officials. "The ceasefire is holding for the most part," Shirwa said. "There are sporadic shootings taking place, but nothing like what we have experienced in the last three days."

The group was hoping to meet with faction leaders on Wednesday "to convince them to observe the ceasefire." "We then hope to start dialogue and find a lasting solution," said Shirwa.

Theme (s): Conflict,


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