Southern Yemen fighting displaces 45,000 people : UN

21st June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Fighting between government forces and suspected Al-Qaeda fighters in southern Yemen have displaced 45,000 people, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Tuesday.

"OCHA is concerned about this conflict situation in southern Yemen in Abyuan province," Elisabeth Byrs, an OCHA spokeswoman, told reporters here. "We are concerned about the resulting displacement of people."

She said humanitarian agencies estimate that roughly 10,000 people have been displaced in Lahj province, 15,000 in Aden province and more than 15,000 around Abyan.

Byrs spoke as battles raged Tuesday between Yemen's army and suspected Al-Qaeda militants for control of the southern city of Zinjibar, a military official said, as the number of soldiers killed passed the 100 mark.

"We are engaged in fierce battles with terrorist elements from Al-Qaeda, leading to heavy losses on their part during the past three days," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

At least 100 soldiers have been killed since the violence in Zinjibar erupted more than three weeks ago, and 260 have been wounded, according to the official, updating an earlier toll.

Alleged Al-Qaeda militants, who have named themselves Ansar al-Sharia (Supporters of Islamic Sharia law), have been controlling most of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, since late May.

Byrs, citing unconfirmed figures from Yemeni authorities, said a total of 283 people have been killed and 3,617 wounded from the beginning of the popular uprising against President Ali Abdallah Saleh to June 10.

She said she did not know whether the figures were only for civilians or whether they also took into account soldiers and suspected Al-Qaeda fighters.

Byrs also spoke of "growing humanitarian needs", notably food, for the displaced and added that humanitarian workers would also be running short of petrol in the next few days.

Byrs said the United Nations had received 59 percent of the 224 million dollars (174 million euros) it requested for its humanitarian activities and warned that additional funding would be needed to deal with the spreading fighting in the region.

© 2011 AFP

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