Somalia

Somalia: Displaced trickle back to war-ravaged Mogadishu

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NAIROBI, 2 May 2007 (IRIN) - Residents of Somalia's war-torn capital, Mogadishu, are slowly returning to the city days after fighting died down, but many are finding their homes destroyed or looted, witnesses said.

"There is a relatively small group that has returned since the fighting stopped at the weekend," said a local journalist.

He said people displaced from Mogadishu during the fighting in the past three months were sending relatives ahead to find out whether the city was safe. Other returnees were just weary of life in squalid camps where they have been sleeping rough with little food, shelter or water.

An estimated 1,000 families had returned to Mogadishu, he said. About 365,000 residents of Mogadishu fled the fighting between government forces, backed by Ethiopian troops and insurgents loyal to the ousted Union of Islamic Courts and clan militias, according to United Nations estimates.

Somalia's transitional government has set up a committee to prepare the logistics of resettling people, but the group has yet to start work.

Madina Mahamud Ilmi, the deputy head of a civil society taskforce for the displaced, told IRIN there were three categories of internally displaced persons: "Those whose homes have been destroyed; those whose homes are occupied by the military, and those who do not have enough means to return."

Ilmi said many of the displaced were poor people who would need assistance to return. "This category simply do not have the financial means to return and will most likely be displaced for a while unless help arrives soon."

She urged the government and the international community to help the displaced return to their homes to avoid having a "permanent class of IDPs [internally displaced people]".

The new mayor of Mogadishu, Muhammad Umar Habeb, known as 'Muhammad Dhere', said his administration would do all it could to resettle the population. "I am very new at my post but I will focus a lot of my energy on resettling the displaced as soon as possible," he told IRIN.

Wednesday was the fifth day of calm after Ethiopian and government troops appeared to have crushed the insurgents at the weekend. African Union troops from Uganda were seen on the streets of the city for the first time on Tuesday.

"Yesterday [Tuesday] they went to see the areas where the fighting was most intense, but later returned to their bases," said the reporters.

ah/mw
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