Somalia

Gunmen kill UNICEF worker in Somalia

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By Mohamed Ahmed

MOGADISHU, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Gunmen killed a Somali working for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Sunday, just two days after another local U.N. worker was assassinated in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation, witnesses said.

In the latest attack three men armed with pistols and assault rifles ambushed the UNICEF worker as he was walking in the southern town of Hudur.

"A man with a pistol shot Muktar Mohammed Hassan several times in the head as he was walking in the centre of town," A U.N. source told Reuters. "He died on the spot and the assailants disappeared in the darkness," he added.

The attack came two days after another U.N. worker was murdered as he left a mosque in the central town of Merka.

Fighting in the capital Mogadishu, one of the world's most dangerous cities, has escalated with insurgents now targeting local people working with foreign aid agencies, after most international staff were pulled out of the country.

Somalia's government and its Ethiopian military allies have been fighting an Iraqi-style insurgency since early last year.

The fighting has killed nearly 10,000 civilians and forced more than a million people out of their homes, in what aid groups have described as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, speaking in Mogadishu on Sunday, said his government needed international assistance to stem the menace of piracy off the Somali coast.

"We know that seven warships from NATO are already in the Somali coast, we welcome them ... We ask for the international community's help to end piracy problems," Nur told reporters.

Pirates are currently holding dozens of ships -- including a Ukrainian vessel carrying tanks and other weapons bound for Kenya -- and have asked for millions of dollars in ransom.

(Additional reporting by Ibrahim Mohamed and Abdi Sheikh; writing by Wangui Kanina)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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