UNHCR says over 9,000 Somalis displaced near Mogadishu
The UN refuge agency said at least 9,200 Somalis have been displaced in the past three days by the ongoing military activity between insurgents and allied forces in Afgooye, about 30 kilometers northwest of Mogadishu.
Afgooye has for a long time been a stronghold of Al-Shabaab insurgents and is a strategic junction for routes to the north, west and south of Somalia.
“Since May 22 to date the UNHCR Somalia Population Movement Tracking (PMT) system has recorded 9,200 displacements from Afgooye due to military activity in the area,” the UN agency said in its update released in Nairobi on Saturday.
UNHCR said the majority of these people have fled to Mogadishu with some to Lower Shabelle and Lower Juba regions, adding that there is no indication of any people arriving in Bay region.
In the so-called Operation Free Shabelle, Africa Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) said that its forces, and those of the Somali National Army, crossed the Shabelle River on Friday and secured all the major roads leading into and out of Afgooye town.
Leaders of the Al-Qaida-affiliated terror group are believed to have fled the town, which was their main base in the region and where they were known to have been extorting revenues from farmers, traders and pastoralists.
The Afgooye town is also strategically located 30 km from the capital, Mogadishu, and governing routes to the port town of Marka, as well as the towns of Baidoa and Jowhar.
“Reports indicate that the IDPs seem to be arriving in all districts of Mogadishu, but mainly to Zona K in Hodan, Radaarka and Odweyne in Dayniile, Jiiroo Maskin and Ex-US embassy in Wadajiir among others,” UNHCR said.
According to the UN refugee agency, reports also indicate that the road between Dayniile and Afgooye may be blocked.
On Monday, AMISOM launched a joint military operation with the Somali National Army, code-named ‘Operation Free Shabelle’ with the objective of securing the Afgooye corridor, home to the world’ s largest concentration of internally displaced people.
Operations are still ongoing to secure the market town of Elasha Biyaha. Harabsca, a trading center located 26 km from Mogadishu, has also been secured.
Somalia has been undergoing a peace and national reconciliation process after decades of conflict, with the country’s Transitional Federal Institutions currently implementing a roadmap, devised in September last year, that spells out priority measures to be carried out before the current transitional governing arrangements end on Aug. 20.
Until last year, most of Mogadishu was, for several years, riven by a fluid frontline dividing the two sides – fighters belonging to the Al-Shabaab movement and troops belonging to Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, with the latter supported by AMISOM’s peacekeeping forces.
Since the Al-Shabaab withdrawal from the capital’s central parts in August last year, the frontlines were pushed back to the city’s surrounding area.
However, the use of roadside bombs, grenades and suicide bombers is still a regular occurrence, and outbreaks of fighting still take place.