UNHCR alarmed by resumption in mortar attacks in Somalia's Mogadishu

Briefing Notes, 20 March 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 20 March 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is concerned at a resumption in mortar attacks in Mogadishu, which have claimed at least four lives in recent days. Mortars landed in a small settlement for internally displaced people in the Wardhigley district of the capital at around 0140 on Monday morning. It is reported that up to four internally displaced people, including two children, were killed.

The target of the attack is believed to have been a hostel housing pro-government forces in the nearby Villa Somalia compound, the presidential palace. But the mortars did not reach their target and instead landed among the IDPs.

This latest incident was the first such attack in Mogadishu since August 2011, when anti-government forces withdrew from the majority of districts in the capital. In late 2011, UNHCR commissioned a report 'Civilian Harm in Somalia: Creating an Appropriate Response' which details what Somalis are seeking in response to violence and focuses on assistance for civilians harmed in warfare.

There is currently no international legal obligation for parties to the conflict in Somalia to make amends to civilians adversely affected by military operations. Among the recommendations of the report is the establishment of a mechanism to track, analyse, investigate and respond to all incidents of civilian harm including loss of property, limb or life.

UNHCR calls on all parties to the conflict in Somalia to cease attacks targeting civilians and humanitarian agencies, or where there is a high risk of harm to civilians located near the intended target. Monday's attack clearly presented an unacceptable risk.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Nairobi, Kenya (Somalia Ops): Andreas Needham on mobile +254 733 120 931

  • In Nairobi (UNHCR regional hub): Vivian Tan, mobile: +254 735 337 608

  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 91 20

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