The UN’s human rights chief on Monday expressed fears at the surge in civilian casualties in Somalia, largely due to attacks by al-Shabaab jihadists, saying more than 600 civilians had been killed this year.
Volker Turk said the toll had worsened an already grim situation for people in Somalia. At least 613 civilians have been killed and 948 injured so far in 2022, according to the latest UN figures – the highest since 2017 and a more-than 30 per cent rise from last year.
The UN said most of the casualties – 315 killed and 686 injured – were caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), at least 94 per cent of which were attributed to al-Shabaab, an Islamist group linked to al-Qaeda. Other casualties were attributed to state security forces, clan militia and other unidentified actors.
“This year has brought an abrupt halt to a general decline in deaths and injuries documented since 2017,” said Turk, the high commissioner for human rights.
He said in a statement, “I am deeply concerned that more Somalis continue to lose their lives on a daily basis. All parties to the conflict must uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law and ensure that civilians are protected. This also includes armed elements engaged alongside the government in the conflict against al-Shabaab, as well as international forces.”
On October 29, twin blasts claimed by al-Shabaab killed at least 121 people and injured 333 others in the capital Mogadishu, the UN said, citing Somali figures. It was the deadliest attack in the fragile Horn of Africa nation in five years.
Two cars packed with explosives blew up minutes apart near the city’s busy Zobe intersection, followed by gunfire. The damaged structure of the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu is seen burning in videos circulated on social media.
The death toll from a devastating 30-hour siege by Al-Shabaab jihadists at a hotel in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu has climbed to 21, Health Minister Ali Haji Adan has said as anxious citizens awaited news of missing relatives.
The insurgents have been seeking to overthrow the fragile foreign-backed government in Mogadishu for about 15 years. Somalia has been mired in chaos since the fall of president Siad Barre’s military regime in 1991.
Al-Shabaab were driven out of Mogadishu in 2011 by an African Union force, but the group still controls swathes of countryside and continues to wage deadly strikes on civilian, political and military targets. The government is intensifying its fight against the Islamist group.
- An AP report