The Elman Human Rights Organization, a Somali group, reports that fighting between Ethiopian-backed government forces and Islamic insurgents in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, has killed hundreds of people, mostly civilians. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, more than forty-five thousand people, mainly women and children, have abandoned their homes since the latest round of fighting erupted in March.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said she is deeply concerned over the high number of civilian deaths and injuries caused by attacks and aerial bombardments in populated areas of Mogadishu. Ms. Arbor urged the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and reminded them of their duty to protect the rights of civilians at all times. That includes granting civilians safe passage and allowing humanitarian aid to reach those who have been affected.
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States is concerned about the effect of the current fighting in Somalia on civilians:
"It's clear that there are increased levels of violence ongoing there. The real concern here is for the potential humanitarian impact and that you have innocent civilians that get caught in the crossfire."
Mr. McCormack said that the United States is urging reconciliation among Somalia's warring factions. That, he said, is a prerequisite for Somalia to emerge from the "morass of violence" it has found itself in for decades:
"You also don't want to have the Ethiopian forces in there for any longer than they need to be. But in order for that to happen, you need to have this political process start to move forward, you need to have support for the AU mission and you need to have some plan for how you are going to provide some semblance of greater stability and security in Mogadishu and Somalia as a whole."
Mr. McCormack said the African Union peacekeeping force, deployed in Somalia comprised of some sixteen hundred Ugandan troops, needs continued logistical support. The International Contact Group on Somalia, he said, strongly urges additional countries to contribute troops to reinforce the A-U forces providing security in Somalia.