Somalia: Dozens killed in clashes in southwestern town

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
NAIROBI, 26 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - Dozens of people were feared dead and many more injured in clashes that broke out on Friday and continued over the weekend in the town of Boru-Hache, also known as El-Waaq, in southwestern Somalia's Gedo region, sources said.

"Violations of human rights and international law occurred particularly with regard to the protection of civilians in time of war," Abdullahi Alas Jimale, chief investigator of the Mogadishu-based Isma'il Jim'ale Human Rights Centre (IJHRC), said.

Boru-Hache is situated on Somalia's border with Kenya. IJHRC said thousands of people displaced by the clashes between two clans had fled across the border to seek refuge in the neighbouring Kenyan border town of El Wak.

The weekend clashes pitted militias from the Gare clan against those from the Marehan. Both sides, Alas said, had used heavy weapons, including anti-aircraft guns, which were fired "without regard to the lives and property of the civilian populations".

IJHRC put the civilian death toll at 40 with more than 60 wounded. "These are noncombatants whom we were able to register, but there are probably some who were not registered," Alas added.

There had also been massive displacement from Boru-Hache, "with only those who could not get out, like the elderly, trapped inside", he added.

Property of unknown value had also been destroyed during the fighting, according to IJHRC. "Large parts of El-Waaq were destroyed by the fires caused by fighting, with many families losing all their possessions and businesses," Alas told IRIN.

Abdul Haro, of the El Wak Civil Societies Humanitarian Action Group, told IRIN it was feared the Garre were regrouping for a counter attack, while the Marehan were reinforcing their positions.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said it was concerned that fresh fighting could exacerbate an already serious humanitarian situation.

"We are concerned by the lack of access to the needy populations due to insecurity," OCHA-Somalia said. It added that humanitarian groups were trying to get access through local actors on both sides.

Kenyan sources said seven Garre fighters wounded in the clashes had been brought to El Wak sub-district hospital. Three seriously wounded militias were transferred to northeastern Kenya's Mandera district hospital.

Other humanitarian sources said local peace initiatives to contain the hostilities were ongoing, and clan elders from the Marehan and the Garre were engaged in negotiations mediated by other clans.

Intermittent clashes between the two clans for control of Boru-Hache have gone on since March. The town has changed hands several times since then.

The town is an important trading post between Somalia and Kenya, and both clans are eager to control it to benefit from the lucrative fees received from lorries transporting goods across the border.


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