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SOMALIA: Thousands displaced as insurgents take control of Kismayo

NAIROBI, 25 August 2008 (IRIN) - Islamic insurgents took total control of Somalia's southern port city of Kismayo, 500km south of the capital Mogadishu, after three days of intense fighting that displaced thousands of families and claimed the lives of at least 100 people.

The fighting, between Islamic insurgents and clan militias, started on 20 August and subsided on 22 August after the clan militias withdrew from Kismayo, said Ali Bashi Abdullahi, the chairman of the Fanole Human Rights Organisation in Kismayo.

"Major fighting came to an end on Friday evening and by Saturday they [Islamic insurgents] were in control of Kismayo."

Abdullahi said the fighting displaced more than 35,000 people. "Our estimate is that some 6220 families [about 37,320 people] have been displaced since the fighting began on Friday."

He said most had fled to villages to the north, toward Mogadishu, or to villages west close to the Kenyan border.

"Those who have gone west are facing serious water problems since the area is suffering from drought and is not close to the river," Abdullahi said. "They need immediate assistance."

He said the internally displaced persons (IDPs) were sheltering in the open and "many of them were left without much".

According to a local medical worker, the death toll in the three days of fighting surpassed 100. "Our figures show that 102 people have died and close to 250 injured; these are the ones whose bodies were found or made to the hospital," he said.

Abdullahi said the Islamic militia was, on 25 August, consolidating its control on the ground. "They are peacefully disarming hundreds of freelance militiamen in the city that have been causing serious security problems."

The group was also holding talks with clan elders to come up with an acceptable administration for the city, he added.

The city, which had been suffering persistent insecurity, was reported to be calm on 25 August. "Businesses have reopened and transport vehicles are back on the streets," a local journalist, who requested anonymity, said.

"How long this will last is anyone's guess," he added.

Meanwhile, the UN Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, said the fighting in the city was over resources and nothing else. In a statement issued on 23 August, Ould-Abdallah, said: "The fighting was to control the port for resource generation and not, as portrayed in some places, a political or other issue."

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

Theme (s): Conflict, Refugees/IDPs,

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

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