Somalia

Somalia: Militias on looting spree as Mogadishu death toll tops 50

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NAIROBI, 4 March (IRIN) - Hundreds of families are fleeing their homes in Mogadishu's southwestern Medina district after fierce clashes broke out in the Somali capital last week.
Ibrahim Abikar, a local businessman, told IRIN on Tuesday that the area "is almost empty today". Some families have remained to safeguard their homes from looters, but Medina - normally one of the most densely populated areas of Mogadishu - was described as a "ghost town".

Many families had lost relatives "to indiscriminate shelling by both sides", a local journalist told IRIN. Residents began fleeing Medina after fighting between rival factions broke out on 26 February. "They are basically leaving so as to keep what is left of their families alive," he said.

The latest round of fighting began when militias loyal to faction leader Muse Sudi Yalahow, attacked positions occupied by fighters loyal to his former right-hand man, Umar Mahmud Muhammad Finish, the journalist said. Both men belong to the Da'ud subclan of the Abgal and the fighting is said to be an attempt by the two leaders to gain supremacy within the subclan.

Ibrahim told IRIN that over 50 people had been killed, most of them civilians caught in the crossfire. His 12-year-old daughter, Hodan, was one of the victims.

"My own daughter was killed on her way home from school by a stray anti-aircraft shell," he said.

In another incident, a mortar bomb landed on a Koranic school, killing eight schoolchildren and their teacher "They [militias] are not killing each other. They are just killing us. I don't know what we have done to deserve this," Ibrahim said.

Hospital sources in Mogadishu confirmed that most of the dead and wounded were civilians, many of them women and children. One source told IRIN an estimated 50 to 60 had been killed, and over 100 wounded.

Meanwhile, the opposing militias are reported to be on a looting spree.

"There is intense looting going on, even today," Ibrahim told IRIN. "They finished looting household goods yesterday [Monday]. Today they are removing iron sheets from the roofs of the houses." He warned that if the looting continued, "there won't be many houses left in Medina".

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