by Staff Writers
Mogadishu (AFP) Aug 8, 2011
Residents fled from pockets of violence around Mogadishu Monday, two days after a surprise rebel pullback that had led the government to claim it fully controlled the famine-stricken city.
Fighting erupted in several areas in the south and north of the city, as African Union-backed government troops set up bases in former Shebab strongholds.
"We are very worried, and many people have already fled to stay away from the firing," said Abdulahi Duale, a resident from the famine-stricken capital's northern Suqaholaha district.
"We could hear shooting close to our neighbourhood," he added.
The Al-Qaeda-affiliated rebels who had controlled around half of Mogadishu abandoned their positions in a surprise withdrawal on Saturday but some units remained active on the outskirts of the capital.
Another resident, Huda Ali said: "We could hear the heavy fighting on Sunday night. We are planning to flee because there are stray bullets reaching close to us now."
Government officials celebrated the hardline rebel pullout, but the Shebab say it is merely "a change of military tactics."
"It was the second day of our changed tactics, and the mujahedeen fighters carried out at least five attacks," Shebab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab told reporters.
"We have inflicted heavy losses on the enemy... where the Christian invading forces tried to expand," he added.
Government forces dismissed the rebel claims, reporting only sporadic shooting as soldiers moved cautiously into former Shebab-held areas.
"Our forces are making a gradual advancement into areas of the city where the Islamist militants have left," said Abdikarin Dhegobadan, a senior government officer.
"There is no resistance we are encountering so far -- the very few rebels remaining are running away, and just firing shots from far away," he added.
Yusuf Mohamed Siad Indhoade, the leader of a pro-government militia, said the Shebab were forced to withdraw from Mogadishu because of internal wrangles.
"The tactic change they are claiming is nonsense. We know they are very weak because of the internal disputes and they could not stand a large offensive the government was planning against them, so they pulled out before it was too late," he told reporters.
The city was quieter on Monday morning after fighting during the night, but residents continued to move out, fearing further conflict.
About 100,000 people from drought-stricken areas have come to Mogadishu over the past two months in search of food, water and shelter, and aid efforts to reach them continued Monday.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) airlifted urgent supplies into the city, the group's first such operation in five years.
Relief items are normally delivered by road or sea, but the "unprecedented rise" in civilians fleeing famine forced the agency to airlift supplies to save time, it said.
The 31-metric-tonne delivery, the first of three flights due in coming days, included 2,500 kits containing plastic sheeting for shelter, sleeping mats and blankets, as well as water and cooking utensils.
"This airlift of emergency assistance items will allow us to continue delivering aid to those displaced by drought and famine," UNHCR Somalia representative Bruno Geddo said in a statement.
The United Nations has officially declared famine for the first time this century in Somalia, including in Mogadishu and in four southern Somali regions, and warned that it could spread.
Much of southern Somalia -- including the majority of regions declared to be in famine -- is still controlled by the Shebab rebels.
Somalia is "the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world today and Africa's worst food security crisis since Somalia's 1991-92 famine," the United Nations has warned.
The United States was expected to announce $105 million in fresh aid to the region, in a pledge due to coincide with a visit to Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp by Jill Biden, wife of US Vice President Joe Biden.
Some $2.4 billion are required to assist 12 million people in the region but only around half of that amount has been received.
Parts of Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda have also been hit by the Horn of Africa's worst drought in decades.
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Nigerian soldiers accused of killing girl in restive city
Kano, Nigeria (AFP) Aug 6, 2011
Residents of violence-wracked Nigerian city of Maiduguri on Saturday accused soldiers of killing a seven-year old girl in a bid to disperse a crowd scrambling for free grains. "People had gathered to collect grains brought by some relief organisations and when the crowd began to swell soldiers from the joint task force deployed to the area began shooting in the air to disperse the crowd," re ... read more
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