Fighting makes Somalis fear more than ever-UN envoy

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NAIROBI, Sep 21 (Reuters) Somalis in the capital Mogadishu are more scared than ever of being targeted by the country's warring parties, who are recruiting children to fight in the conflict, a UN envoy said today.

Ethiopian soldiers are helping to bolster Somalia's transitional government the 14th attempt to reimpose central rule in 16 years against insurgents fighting what they see as an occupation by a longstanding rival.

''I think people are afraid in Mogadishu now more than any time before,'' said Ghanim Alnajjar, the UN-appointed independent human rights expert on Somalia.

''They're afraid of being killed, of being arrested by anybody, by so-called insurgents, by TFG (transitional federal government), by Ethiopian forces,'' he told a news conference in Nairobi after a brief trip to Somalia.

Alnajjar, a Kuwaiti academic, also said there were instances of indiscriminate shooting at civilians.

''And both parties using children in conflict that is also happening. I think all parties have to pay attention to international humanitarian law,'' he said without elaborating.

Alnajjar, who met President Abdullahi Yusuf and Prime Minister Ali Mohamd Gedi, said he was initially prevented from entering Somalia. He was told the refusal came from the Ethiopians, but said that was only a rumour.

Alnajjar said the government promised to investigate reports its troops had surrounded the independent media house Shabelle on Tuesday, opening fire on the building and wounding one guard.

''I got an answer which was mixed but I hope that it will be translated into action to stop these attacks,'' Alnajjar said.

''This is creating a situation of fear where people are afraid to express themselves freely. The prime minister promised to do his best and investigate the latest incident on Shabelle and I hope that he'll resolve this.'' He said he had received reports of torture and secret prisons, but needed to verify such claims by some civilians who blame the allied Somali-Ethiopian troops.

''I don't make any charges but I have to verify that.'' He praised Ugandan peacekeepers, the vanguard of an 8,000-strong African Union mission, for doing a ''remarkable job''.

''They are well-disciplined. They are at least showing something different to what people anticipated,'' he said.

Since arriving in March, the contingent of 1,600 Ugandans have won over some Somalis who are suspicious of foreigners by giving out water and drugs, destroying munitions and treating civilians free at their medical facilities.


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