Over 67,000 displaced in latest Somali violence, says UN

May 27th, 2009 - 4:59 am ICT by IANS  

Mogadishu, May 27 (Xinhua) More than 67,000 people have been displaced in the escalating violence in the Somali capital, as the military intensified their operations against the Islamic militants, who fired mortar shells at the presidential palace Tuesday, killing at least 10 people.
Military spokesman Farhan Mahad said none of the mortar shells hit the presidential building, but landed in a nearby area killing seven people.

Mohamed Ahmed, a local resident, said seven people, who were dining at a small restaurant behind the Villa Somalia (the presidential palace), died after the shells hit the eatery.

Medics confirmed the toll, adding that three other people who were seriously wounded in the attack in the Wardigley district, died on arrival at the hospital.

The Somali troops have been battling the insurgents of the hardline Islamist Al-Shabaab movement and the Hezbul Islam group, who vowed to topple the government in Mogadishu.

On Tuesday, the security forces have fanned out in the southern Medina district of Mogadishu where the city’s major airport is located. The soldiers were reportedly seen taking positions around the area after receiving information about a plan to attack the airport by insurgents.

The militants have recently captured two main towns in the Middle Shabelle region in central Somalia, where the battle between the pro-government Union of Islamic Courts forces and fighters of the Al-Shabaab and Hezbul Islam groups is still raging.

In a separate development Tuesday, the UN Security Council has pledged financial support to the Somali government.

“For the first time the Security Council has agreed to provide the logistical support (to Somali government)”, Britain’s UN envoy John Sawers told reporters at the UN headquarters.

The Fifth Committee of the UN General Assembly is currently working on the budget for Somalia, Sawers said. He added that about $200-300 million would be paid to Somalia over a period of one year.

Earlier, Somali President Sheikh Sharif called on the international community for assistance in the fight against the militants.

The UN said about 67,000 civilians fled Mogadishu after the fighting started May 8. The UN refugee agency UNHCR Tuesday began distributing humanitarian aid like cooking stoves, plastic sheets and blankets for some 50,000 displaced people.

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