Somalia

All sides flouting humanitarian law in Somalia - UN

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GENEVA, April 26 (Reuters) - All sides in the Somalia conflict are breaking humanitarian law by indiscriminately firing on civilian areas in Mogadishu, the United Nations' top aid official said on Thursday.

Unless there is a ceasefire soon, the plight of the 350,000 people who have fled fighting in the capital, most of whom are receiving no assistance, will be very grave, the U.N. emergency relief coordinator John Holmes said.

"The rules of humanitarian law are being flouted by all sides ... all factions are equally guilty of indiscriminate violence in a civilian area," Holmes told a news conference.

Later in Mogadishu, Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said that "most fighting" had finished in the capital after allied Somali-Ethiopian forces launched a major drive on the ninth day of battles with Islamist rebels.

Locals and rights activists say nearly 300 people have died in the most sustained battles since the then-ruling Islamists were toppled in a two-week war late last year.

More than 1,000 were killed in a previous spike in fighting between government troops and their Ethiopian allies on one side, and insurgents -- a mixed group of Islamist fighters, foreign jihadists and some clan militia -- on the other.

International aid agencies had only been able to reach some 60,000 of the people who had fled Mogadishu since February, Holmes told a news conference.

Around 600 deaths from diarrhoeal diseases, including cholera, had already been reported since the start of the year and the approach of the April-June rainy season would only make conditions worse for those living out in the open.

"If fighting continues ... we could be facing a very serious situation indeed," Holmes said.

He urged international donors quickly to meet the U.N.'s $262 million appeal for Somalia of which so far only some 36 percent had been covered.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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