Fighting forces civilians to flee Kismayo IDP camps

Fighting between Islamic insurgents and forces of the local administration in Somalia's port city of Kismayo entered a second day on 21 August, displacing hundreds of families, with dozens killed, sources told IRIN.

"Our estimate is that 3,000 families [18,000 people] were displaced by the fighting yesterday," Ali Bashi Abdullahi, the head of the Fanole Human Rights Organisation, said.

The fighting, between the Al-Shabab group and the forces of the local administration, was reported to be spreading to other parts of the city from its initial concentration in the neighbourhoods of Fanole, Isku filan and Farjano, in the north and northeast of the city, according to Abdullahi.

The latest fighting was mainly in the western neighbourhoods of Alanley and Via Afmadow, he said, causing hundreds of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Fanole to abandon their camps.

Abdullahi said more were still fleeing: "We don't have today's figures, but it looks like the 30,000 IDPs along with residents are on the move again."

He said most were fleeing to safer parts of the city, while others had sought refugee in the surrounding countryside.

"Some of these people are being displaced for the second or third time," said Abdullahi.

At least 29 people have reportedly died since the fighting began on 20 August, while over 80 were injured, he added.

Ali Hassan, a doctor at the Kismayo General Hospital, said dozens of injured were brought into the hospital.

"We have received 50 people injured in the fighting since this morning [21 August]," said Hassan, adding that the injured included both combatants and civilians.

"These are the numbers of the people who made it to the hospital," he said.

Kismayo is 500km south of the capital Mogadishu and has been suffering from persistent insecurity.

According to other sources, tension had been building between the two groups over who should administer the city.

"It just boiled over yesterday [Wednesday]," said a source.

Later, the source said the fighting appeared to have died down. "It seems that the Al Shabab group has been pushed back."

''Our estimate is that 3,000 families [18,000 people] were displaced by the fighting yesterday''

Abdullahi appealed to both sides to spare the civilian population and to stop using heavy weapons in populated areas.

He also called on international aid agencies to urgently assist the displaced.

Meanwhile, violence continued in Mogadishu as combined Ethiopian and government troops battled insurgents on 21 August.

The fighting occurred mostly in the north of the city, according to a local source. Hospital sources said at least "four foreign troops and 10 Somalis were killed on Wednesday".

Since fighting between Ethiopian-backed Somali forces and insurgents began in early 2007, about one million Somalis have fled their homes. Some 8,000 civilians have been killed.

The UN estimates that 2.6 million Somalis need assistance. That number is expected to reach 3.5 million by the end of the year if the humanitarian situation does not improve.

ah/sr