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Page last updated at 16:07 GMT, Wednesday, 27 May 2009 17:07 UK

Mogadishu victims swamp hospitals

A man carries the injured body of his son at the entrance to Mogadishu"s Medina hospital on May 22, 2009
Medics have been dealing with bullet and shrapnel wounds

Doctors at one of the main hospitals in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, say they have been swamped with patients injured in an upsurge of fighting.

Medics say some of the casualties are being admitted with horrific injuries.

At Medina Hospital, tents have been set up in the corridors and mattresses laid under trees outside for the victims.

It comes as a radical cleric on the US terror list, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, formally became leader of the Somali Islamist rebel group Hisbul-Islam.

The militia, and an allied hardline group, al-Shabab, have been locked in fierce battles with pro-government forces that have displaced more than 60,000 civilians since 7 May.

Blast injuries

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which funds and runs two of Mogadishu's three hospitals, Medina and Keysaney, told the BBC more than 650 patients have sought treatment since the clashes began and that many more were trapped in conflict zones.

FROM BBC WORLD SERVICE

It said a number of patients had bullet and shrapnel wounds as well as blast injuries from shells landing on their homes.

"We are very stretched but at the moment no-one is being turned away and we can cope with the pressure," said Pedram Yazdiof, of the ICRC in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

He said fighting in the southern Medina district of the city over the past two days had made it difficult for some staff to get to the hospital.

The BBC's Mohamed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu says the capital was relatively quiet on Wednesday after two weeks of almost continual fighting.

Meanwhile, the outgoing head of rebel group Hisbul-Islam, Omar Abubakar, said he had not come under any pressure to hand over the leadership to Mr Aweys.

Peacekeeper renewal

Mr Aweys, who returned from exile last month, was already regarded as the spiritual leader of Hisbul-Islam, say correspondents.

The group was formed in January to fight the unity government led by Mr Aweys' one-time ally, President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys spent two years in exile in Eritrea

President Ahmed's introduction of Sharia law to the strongly Muslim country has not appeased radicals like Mr Aweys, who have sworn to topple the administration and impose a stricter version of Islamic rule.

Mr Aweys fled to Eritrea in 2007 after Ethiopian troops ousted his movement, the Union of Islamic Courts, which he had led with Mr Ahmed.

He split from the more moderate Mr Ahmed after the latter agreed to UN-led peace talks that brought the latter to power as president in January and saw Ethiopian troops pull out.

Mr Aweys accuses President Ahmed and the unity government of being unelected and unrepresentative and wants African Union (AU) peacekeepers to leave the country.

The UN Security Council has voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the 4,300-strong AU mission in Somalia for eight months, and to provide more stable financing.

John Sawers, the British ambassador at the UN, said this would cost between $200m and $300m (£190m).

The Security Council also urged member states to fund, and provide training for, the Somali military and police so that they can play a greater role in providing security.

Somalia, a nation of about eight million people, has experienced almost constant conflict since the collapse of its central government in January 1991.



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