Soldiers shoot dead 10 Somali refugees in food riots
SOMALI government soldiers shot dead 10 civilians yesterday when a riot broke out at a refugee camp in Mogadishu.
Witnesses claim the chaos in the capital broke out when soldiers tried to steal some of the 290 tonnes of food rations being given to famine victims.
Several refugees then tried to get food, prompting some of the soldiers to open fire, witnesses said.
Abdi Awale Nor, who has been living at the camp, said: "It was carnage. They ruthlessly shot everyone."
Muse Sheikh Ali, another of those waiting for rations, claimed that seven people were "killed on the spot".
"Then soldiers took the food and people fled from the camp," he alleged.
However, a Somali government spokesman said the troops were trying to prevent looting.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Mogadishu are waiting for food aid, funding for which aid agencies said is still urgently needed.
Five regions of Somalia are already in famine and 12.5 million people across the region need food, shelter and medicine. The UN has warned that all eight regions of southern Somalia risk tipping into famine in the coming weeks.
The UN's World Food Programme (WFP), which said 290 tonnes of maize and oil had been available for distribution at the site, confirmed an incident had occurred at Badbaado, a squalid, makeshift camp that is home to some 30,000 refugees.
"At least 10 people died and 15 others were wounded," Aden Kusow, himself a refugee, said.
"Seven of those died in the camp. The other three died outside as they fled. Most of those who died are refugees," he said.
Some 3.7 million Somalis are at risk of starvation, the majority of them in the south, prompting hundreds of thousands to make the dangerous trek to Mogadishu and its outlying areas in search of food.
About 100,000 refugees have reached the capital in the last two months and hundreds more are streaming into the city every day, risking threats of attack by Islamist al-Shabaab militants who control most of the worst-hit drought areas.
Newly appointed Somali prime minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said his administration would work to ensure a repeat of the violence would not happen again.
"We shall take measures against those who were behind the chaos," he told reporters during a visit to the camp.
WFP has said aid groups cannot reach more than two million Somalis in the worst-hit areas because al-Shabaab fighters have blocked access to most aid agencies.
The UN's refugee agency, UNHCR, said it would fly more than 31 tonnes of shelter material and aid items into Mogadishu on Monday, its first humanitarian airlift into Somalia in more than five years.
Stolen aid often ends up for sale in markets or in the hands of militants.
"Government forces started the game and we pop in where there is a unexpected chance. I will sell half of this food to get some cash. It is not a surprise," Mogadishu resident Hashim Ibrahim (30) said as he hurried out of the camp with a wheelbarrow full of rations. (©Daily Telegraph, London)