230 people killed in Mogadishu violence: UNHCR

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The UN refugee agency said Tuesday that 230 civilians had been killed during fighting between government forces and Islamist rebels over the past two weeks in Somalia's capital Mogadishu.

"UNHCR is alarmed by the further deterioration we are seeing in the situation in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu," said Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

"Fighting over the past two weeks between the transitional government and al-Shabaab has cost more than 230 civilian lives with at least 400 people wounded and 23,000 displaced," she added.

Unrest in the capital has forced some 200,000 to flee their homes this year alone, said the UN agency.

Those who have managed to seek refuge in the north of Somalia or to neighbouring countries said that the streets of the capital were completely deserted, and that people were fearful of leaving their homes, said Fleming.

As security conditions in the capital deteriorated, even aid distributions were becoming rare, she added.

People had exchanged their remaining possessions just to get a seat on buses leaving of Mogadishu.

Those who have managed to get out to the north or to neighbouring countries are "arriving on foot and by small buses and travelling without shelter," said Fleming.

The Al-Qaeda inspired Shebab fighters have stepped up their attacks against Somali government forces and their African Union backers in recent weeks.

The government forces and their African peacekeeper allies -- some 6,000 Ugandan and Burundian troops -- are the last barrier between the hardline group and the embattled government of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

The government now has only partial control of a few districts of the capital.

© 2010 AFP

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