Corpses litter streets amid Mogadishu fighting

An African Union peacekeeper guards the surrounding area of an AU controlled post in Mogadishu on April 1, 2010. Allegedly, Somalia's transitional government is gearing up for a major offensive against the Shabab, a militant Islamist group who now control
An African Union peacekeeper guards the surrounding area of an AU controlled post in Mogadishu (Siegfried Modola/IRIN)

Deadly clashes between Islamist insurgents and African Union-backed government forces cut off many parts of Mogadishu on 24 August, when dozens of people, including several MPs, were killed during an attack on a downtown hotel.

"There is not one area [of the capital] that is safe today," said a civil society worker who asked not to be identified because she feared for her safety.

"We are getting reports of dead bodies on most major roads in the city," she said, adding that the intensity of the fighting, which broke out on 23 August, meant the corpses were not being collected.

"They are determined to kill what is left of this city," she added, referring to the warring parties.

"Who will they rule if we are all dead? Whoever wins will rule corpses," she said.

Ali Muse, who runs the city's ambulance service, told IRIN his teams had collected 34 bodies and more than 131 injured from various streets.

"There are areas we could not reach, so I am sure the numbers will go up once we are able to reach all parts," he said.

A trader in Bakara market, the biggest in the country, said: "Since 3pm yesterday [23 August] we have not had a break from the shelling. As I am speaking to you two shells landed nearby."

She did not say who had shelled whom but deadly exchanges of mortar fire between al-Shabab insurgents and troops of the 6,000-strong AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) are frequent in the city.

"We had no warning; they just started shelling when the market was full of people buying stuff to break the [Ramadan] fast," she said.

"I don't know what I will do if we run out of food. We cannot go anywhere."

In many areas of the city, people were unable to access their homes or businesses.

"There are people stuck where they were yesterday," a local journalist told IRIN.

Barkad Awale Aden
Among the casualties of the latest fighting in Mogadishu was Barkad Awale Aden, a veteran journalist and director of Radio Hurmo, a partner of IRIN’s Somali radio project. Radio Hurmo’s output focuses on civil society and human rights issues.

Awale was shot while trying to fix a damaged rooftop aerial.

He began his 35-year career at the Somali National Media Agency in 1975 and later worked as a producer and presenter with Radio Mogadishu during the presidency of Mohammed Siad Barre. Since then he worked with a variety of media outlets including one run by the United Nations Mission in Somalia in 1992.

Awale was the second journalist to be killed in Somalia this year, and the 34th since 1992, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"It is extremely dangerous to go out or even stay in. It feels as if the whole city is on fire. People are really trapped," he said.

Echoing several other sources in Mogadishu, the journalist said neither side had made any territorial gains during the fighting.

Al-Shabab says it is fighting to topple the country's transitional government and remove the "invaders", meaning AMISOM, which for its part recently stepped up operations against the insurgents.

"The only gains they are making is killing more civilians and creating more misery for the residents," the journalist said.

"The shelling is constant and indiscriminate. It is almost as if they [warring sides] have no target and the aim is to show the other side that you can also lob a shell."

Witnesses said the attack on the Muna Hotel in the Hamarweyne district was carried out by two men in military uniform. "They opened fire on anyone that moved," said a witness, and once their ammunition ran out, one of the fighters blew himself up.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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