MOGADISHU, 7 April 2011 (IRIN) - Fighting between pro-government forces and Al-Shabab in Mogadishu has made it much harder for residents to access the Somali capital's economic heart, Bakara market.
Most of the roads leading to this commercial hub have been closed by Al-Shabab as Mogadishu becomes increasingly partitioned between areas under its control and those held by government troops and soldiers of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). "Previously, the fighting did not mean the roads were closed," Fadumo Ahmed, a businesswoman and mother of eight, told IRIN. "Nowadays it is difficult for me to get to Bakara market; it takes me at least three hours when in the past it took me only 10-15 minutes [by bus] to get to the market. "To make matters worse, when you leave your house in the morning nowadays, you don't know whether you will return safely. However, we leave anyway because we must provide for our families." According to Mogadishu-based journalist Yusuf Kaynan, in addition to waking up as early as 5am and paying a US$1.50 bus fare to get to the market, women who live in Ceelasha Biyaha, 10km southwest of the market, have to walk on the "dangerous" Farjano road, past the Sayidhka bridge that links the government-controlled area to Bakara.
"They risk being hit by stray bullets," Kaynan said. "Much as the women stick to the sides of the road to avoid being hit, it is not safe as the road passes in front of the two warring sides." Kaynan said five civilians have been caught in the line of fire in the past two weeks, one of whom died on 27 March.
On 31 March, AMISOM and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) blamed Al-Shabab for blocking the roads by "digging trenches and tunnels". "Despite the increased fighting, AMISOM and the TFG have maintained access along the Aden Adde Road, near Parliament, for commuters to access Bakara. Thousands of people use this access route each day," the statement added. It went on to urge Al-Shabab to "stop shooting at trucks and workers, stop extorting money from businesses, and stop the indiscriminate shelling and targeting". According to local estimates, Mogadishu had a population of 2.5 million but at least 1.5 million have since fled the city. Of the remainder, 90 percent live in TFG-controlled areas, the rest in Al-Shabab-controlled districts.
Fighting in Mogadishu between government troops and militants dates back to 2006 when Ethiopian-backed government troops seized control of the city from the Union of Islamic Courts - a grouping of several opposition groups - that had been in charge of the city for several months. "We live with the daily sound of shelling and shootings; between seven and 10 deaths are reported every day," a local journalist, who requested anonymity, told IRIN in Mogadishu. maj/js/am/mw[END]