7 Killed in Looting at Somalia Aid Camp

Posted August 5th, 2011 at 11:40 am (UTC-5)
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Witnesses at a refugee camp in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, say seven people were killed during a looting spree that broke out as food was being distributed to famine and drought victims.

People at the scene say the violence began Friday when men dressed as government troops began stealing food at the Badbaado camp, the largest refugee complex in the capital.

Witnesses say pro-government forces guarding the food opened fire on the looters, prompting an exchange of gunfire.

Reports say some of the dead and wounded include refugees who were waiting to receive food aid at a World Food Program feeding site.

In an interview with VOA (Somali Service), government forces commander General Abdikarim Dhengobadan denied his troops were responsible for the looting.

Separately, a U.N. official who just returned from the region says al-Shabab militants are preventing starving Somalis from fleeing into neighboring countries for life-saving aid.

The U.N. refugee agency's special representative for Somalia, Bruno Geddo, says the group wants to ensure it has a base from which to recruit more fighters.

Geddo says refugees have told him that al-Shabab militants have set up roadblocks to keep people from leaving under its control.

The Islamist extremists control parts of central and southern Somalia and have banned most foreign aid groups from operating operating in those areas.

The U.N. has declared a famine in five regions of southern Somalia. And the world body predicts famine conditions will spread to more areas and could last until December.

The United Nations says drought has left more than 12 million people across the Horn of Africa in need of food aid. The U.N. has appealed for $1.4 billion to help the victims.