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Last Updated: Friday, 20 April 2007, 05:22 GMT 06:22 UK
Somalia faces aid crisis, says UN
Somali woman injured in Mogadishu
Many of those displaced in the fighting are women and children
The UN has warned of a humanitarian disaster in Somalia, as fighting continues between insurgents and government-backed Ethiopian forces.

More than 200,000 people have fled their homes amid ongoing clashes in the capital, Mogadishu, the UN said.

Aid workers say the city is inhabited only by fighters and men protecting the remains of their property.

At least 20 people have been killed in the latest clashes, with artillery being used in residential areas.

The clashes made it hard to deliver aid to the displaced, the UN says.

Most people lacked food and water and hundreds had already died from cholera and diarrhoea, UN humanitarian co-ordinator Eric Laroche said.

"It is time that we get access to the people in Mogadishu," he said.

'Aid blocked'

The renewed fighting in Mogadishu comes after at least 20 people were killed on Thursday after an Ethiopian convoy was mined 20km from Mogadishu on the southern road to Afgooye.

Eyewitnesses said there had also been a big explosion at an Ethiopian army complex south of the city.

Ethiopian troops in Somalia
Eyewitnesses say a troop carrier was mined in the attack
Correspondents say it is not known what triggered the fighting in the city on Thursday morning.

"Six consecutive missiles hit... There are many wounded," said Hassan Ibrahim, as he drove a minibus full of the wounded to a hospital.

The shelling was centred around the central presidential palace, the former defence ministry and a former secondary school in the north.

An eyewitness who saw the explosion at the Ethiopian army base told the BBC Somali service the rising debris and smoke looked like a "flying mountain".

He said people fleeing the area told him that after the blast Ethiopian troops started firing at people passing by; bodies are reported to be strewn along the street.

The insurgents are believed to be a mixture of Islamist fighters and militiamen from the Hawiye clan - the largest in Mogadishu.

Ethiopia helped government forces oust Islamists from Mogadishu last December but violence has intensified after the relative calm when the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) ran the city.

BBC East Africa correspondent Adam Mynott says the displaced are living scattered across southern and central Somalia in appalling conditions.

There are also claims that the transitional government has blocked aid from getting to some of those who need it.

Somalia has not had an effective national government for 16 years.

Last month, more than 1,000 people were killed in the heaviest fighting sine 1991.

The Ethiopian troops have started to withdraw, to be replaced by an African Union peacekeeping force.

But only 1,200 troops, of the 8,000 the AU says it needs, have been deployed.

Scenes of unrest in the Somali capital Mogadishu


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