U.N.: Million displaced in Somalia – CNN

November 20th, 2007 Print Print Email Email

The U.N. refugee agency estimates the number of displaced people in the war-torn eastern African nation of Somalia “has risen sharply to a staggering 1 million.” (more…)

The U.N. refugee agency estimates the number of displaced people in the war-torn eastern African nation of Somalia “has risen sharply to a staggering 1 million.”

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said on Tuesday that about 60 percent or 600,000 people are thought to have fled from the capital of Mogadishu since February, with nearly 200,000 displaced in the past two weeks — a flight from warfare that has left “entire neighborhoods in the volatile capital empty.”

Previous fighting displaced about 400,000 others. The population of Somalia is more than 8.8 million, according to the latest World Almanac.

Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia in December 2006 to drive the Islamic Courts Union out of Mogadishu and restore the U.N.-backed transitional government after a decade and a half of near-anarchy.

After the invasion, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi promised his troops would remain in Somalia only a few weeks, and dismissed fears that his army would become bogged down in a guerrilla war.

The Islamists responded by launching an insurgency against Somali government and Ethiopian troops, who have made only “limited progress” against them, according to a U.N. report.

The United States accused the ICU of harboring suspected al Qaeda figures, including three men wanted in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and raised no objections to the invasion.

Washington has long been concerned that Somalia could turn into a safe haven for terrorists, but ICU leaders denied harboring al Qaeda suspects.

Indonesia’s representative to the United Nations Marty M. Natalegawa told reporters on Monday that U.N. Security Council members “expressed strong concern about the deteriorating political, security and humanitarian situation in Somalia.” Indonesia holds the rotating council presidency.

The council members stressed “the need to continue to actively develop contingency plans for the possible deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force as part of enhanced U.N. integrated strategy in Somalia,” Natalegawa said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon cautioned last week in a report on Somalia that the deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping operation and even a technical assessment mission is unrealistic because of the volatile security situation.

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