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ICRC sends aid for casualties in Somalia fighting

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 30 Dec 2011 12:20 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Casualties mostly civilians, some with shrapnel wounds

* MSF identifies two killed foreign aid workers

By Yara Bayoumy

NAIROBI, Dec 30 (Reuters) - The International Committee for the Red Cross said on Friday it had sent more than a tonne of medical supplies to southern Somalia, where over 100 people have been wounded in areas where Kenyan troops are fighting entrenched Islamist rebels.

Yves van Loo of ICRC Somalia said the wounded were mainly civilians caught in fighting in the last 10 days in the frontline regions of Afmadow and Dhobley, where air strikes have also taken place in recent weeks.

The ICRC said the fighting made it difficult for the wounded to reach hospitals for treatment.

On Dec. 20, a Kenyan warplane bombed a Somali village held by the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab rebels, killing and wounding several people.

Kenya said on Friday its forces had raided an al Shabaab patrol base in Qoqani, about 30 km (19 miles) west of Afmadow, in an attack that killed five rebels and one Kenyan soldier.

Al Shabaab and a Somali government soldier said the rebels had attacked a Kenyan convoy on Thursday.

There has been little ground combat since Kenyan forces crossed into Somalia more than two months ago to crush the militants, whom Nairobi blames for a spate of kidnappings and cross-border attacks.

"More than 100 wounded people, mainly civilians, reached the medical facilities during the most recent phase of fighting," Randi Jensen, an ICRC nurse, said in a statement.

The ICRC said it had provided a hospital in Kismayu, a major southern port city that is a bastion for al Shabaab, with one tonne of supplies for the surgical treatment of casualties.

The agency also delivered 300 kg (660 pounds) of medical supplies to clinics in Dhobley and Afmadow.

The supplies were transported by road from Kenya and Mogadishu after all warring parties had guaranteed safe access to the ICRC, Van Loo said.

"There may be more to come, and more casualties to be reported, because not everyone has been able to reach the medical facilities," Van Loo told Reuters, adding that some of the wounded had shrapnel and gunshot wounds.

"And with air strikes people are often in shock, so it takes a few days before people reach medical facilities."

MSF AID WORKERS SHOT

Kenya&${esc.hash}39;s war against al Shabaab is just one of several flashpoints in Somalia, which has been in turmoil for the last two decades, making it among the most dangerous countries for aid workers, civilians and journalists.

In the Somali capital Mogadishu, where government troops and African Union peacekeepers maintain a tenuous hold on security, two foreign employees of aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres were shot dead on Thursday.

MSF has now identified those killed as 53-year-old Belgian Philippe Havet, an emergency coordinator, and Andrias Karel Keiluhu, a 44-year-old Indonesian doctor.

Police told Reuters a Somali MSF staff member had shot the two, prompting the aid agency to say it would relocate some of its staff for security reasons.

"(But MSF) remains committed to continuing our humanitarian work in Mogadishu and elsewhere in Somalia," said MSF, the agency which also had two Spanish aid workers kidnapped from a refugee camp in Kenya in October.

Kenya&${esc.hash}39;s border region with Somalia, where the Dadaab refugee camp is located, has also witnessed some low-level violence since Nairobi&${esc.hash}39;s cross-border campaign began.

On Thursday, Kenyan police said suspected al Shabaab militants had shot and fatally wounded a Somali member of a local security committee in Dadaab who had been assisting Kenyan forces on security issues in the camp.

North Eastern police commander Leo Nyongesa said six suspects had been arrested in connection with the killing. (Additional reporting by Noor Ali in Isiolo; Editing by David Clarke and Alistair Lyon)

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