UN calls for respect of civilians and aid agencies as mortar attacks continue in Mogadishu

Somali civilians on the grounds of a ruined cathedral in Mogadishu in August 2011. Photo: UNHCR/S. Modola

27 March 2012 – The United Nations refugee agency today called for respect of civilian life and humanitarian agencies in Mogadishu as mortar attacks continued in the Somali capital yesterday, leading to the deaths of three people.

According to the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Melissa Fleming, several mortars landed in the Beerta Darawiishta settlement for internally displaced persons (IDPs) near the Somali Parliament building on Monday morning. Three IDPs were killed, including a father and his three-year-old child, and another eight people were seriously wounded.

Until late last year, the Somali capital had been riven by a fluid frontline dividing two sides – fighters belonging to the Al Shabaab movement and troops belonging to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), with the latter supported by the peacekeeping forces of the UN-backed African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Since the Al Shabaab’s withdrawal from the central parts of Mogadishu in August 2011, the frontlines have been pushed back to the city’s outskirts. But the situation is still far from secure, with the use of roadside bombs, grenades and suicide bombers a regular occurrence, and on the rise.

“The target of the attack is believed to have been pro-government forces near the parliament building,” Ms. Fleming told reporters in Geneva. “However, just as in a similar attack last week on the presidential palace Villa Somalia… the mortars did not reach the intended target and instead landed among IDPs.”

Ms. Fleming also said there were additional mortar attacks on Villa Somalia and elsewhere over the weekend, but that no casualties had been registered.

Anti-government forces, she said, have reportedly instructed IDPs to move away from areas surrounding presidential offices as they intend to continue the attacks. Ms. Fleming also noted that pro-government forces are implementing practices to reduce the impact of indirect fire on the civilian population, such as when civilians were given advance notice of a recent military activity in the Afgooye corridor, on Mogadishu’s outskirts, which allowed them to vacate the area safely.


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