Clan members and Ethiopian soldiers cleared bodies from the streets of Somalia’s capital Wednesday during a lull in fighting that has killed hundreds of people and driven tens of thousands from the ruined city.
An offensive launched by Somali troops and their Ethiopian backers against Islamic insurgents last week took its greatest toll on civilians. Bodies litter the tiny, dusty alleyways and back streets where much of the fighting took place.
A member of Mogadishu’s dominant clan, the Hawiye, said a team of clan members and Ethiopian officials were clearing the corpses.
“They are visiting the war zone to see if dead bodies need to be buried,” clan member Hussein Farah Siyad said.
Civilians fleeing Mogadishu
A group of U.S., European, Arab and African diplomats, the International Contact Group on Somalia, condemned the fighting and demanded that both sides protect aid workers and civilians and comply with international humanitarian law.
Aid agencies say nearly 400 people were killed and some 565 people wounded when Ethiopian troops used tanks and attack helicopters to crush insurgents. The insurgents are linked to an Islamic movement that ruled Mogadishu for six months before being driven out in December.
Somalis poured out of the coastal city on foot and in donkey carts, cars and trucks, joining an exodus of 47,000 people, mainly women and children, in the last 10 days, even before the major offensive began, according to the U.N. refugee agency.
Since February, almost 100,000 people have fled violence in Mogadishu.
Kenya has doubled the number of troops patrolling the 930-mile Somali border to prevent a new influx of refugees, said Antony Kibuchi, the Kenyan police chief in the border province. The Kenyan army is also patrolling in light tanks, he said.
At least 1,300 people who fled Mogadishu arrived at Dobley, a Somali town four miles from the Kenyan border. Camps there are overcrowded, lacking water and fighting the spread of disease, aid agencies say.
Somalia’s insurgents are linked to the Council of Islamic Courts, which was driven from power in December by Somali and Ethiopian soldiers, accompanied by U.S. special forces. The U.S. has accused the courts of having ties to al-Qaida.
The militants have long rejected any secular government and have sworn to fight until Somalia becomes an Islamic emirate.
The country has been mired in chaos since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned against each other. A national government was established in 2004, but has failed to assert any real control.