SOMALIA: Blast kills group of disabled war veterans in Mogadishu

NAIROBI, 14 September 2009 (IRIN) – At least 12 disabled people were killed in Mogadishu when a shell landed in their compound, according to eyewitnesses.

“We were preparing to break our fast when a shell landed on our compound in Demartini hospital; 12 were killed on the spot and 16 injured and taken to hospital,” said Abdullahi Hassan Hussein, a disabled activist.

The killing of the disabled is the latest act of violence in an increasingly conflict-ridden city, which has seen the displacement of hundreds of thousands from their homes since the end of 2006.

Ali Sheikh Yassin, deputy chairman of the Mogadishu-based Elman Human Rights Organization (EHRO), told IRIN the killings showed that parties to the conflict had reached a new low.

“We condemn this attack in the strongest terms possible and call on both sides to allow an independent investigation to find out who was behind it,” he said.

Both the government and the opposition have denied being behind the attack.

The disabled were veterans of Somalia’s 1977 war with Ethiopia and were considered heroes. The hospital compound is home to 90 of them and their families, said activist Hussein. “They have been here since the civil war started… I don’t know why they were targeted… These were our heroes and we are killing them now. No one is safe.”

EHRO’s Yassin said more than 60 people were killed and 106 injured in fighting in Mogadishu in the last two weeks.

The fighting, between government forces backed by AMISOM (AU peacekeeping troops) and two Islamist insurgent groups, was entering a very dangerous phase “with both sides believing that it is now or never,” he said.

People on the move

More families were leaving the city due to the uncertainty, he told IRIN, adding that the internally displaced persons’ camps on the outskirts of Mogadishu were getting overwhelmed by the new influx.

Other people were moving towards the Kenyan border, said Asha Sha’ur, a civil society representative in Mogadishu. She said conditions in the camps around Mogadishu were deteriorating.

Previously, people fled north to the central regions but those regions have also become war zones. “Unfortunately no place seems safe inside our country,” Sha’ur said. “How many more must die from hunger, disease or wounds, and how many more must lose their homes before this ends?”

Fighting has been going on in Mogadishu since Ethiopian troops withdrew in December 2008, leading to thousands of deaths and injuries, as well as thousands being displaced.

An estimated 3.76 million people – half the population – need assistance, according to the UN Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit.

[original]

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