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Violence, Humanitarian Crisis Continues to Grip Somalia

Ongoing violence in Somalia has worsened the humanitarian situation in the war-torn East African country with disease, displacement and hunger among the problems. Two Somalia experts examine the crisis and the international community's response.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Finally tonight, a return to Somalia, the East African nation once again under siege by a combination of war, displacement, disease and starvation.

    One year ago, Ethiopian troops occupied the capital, Mogadishu, in an effort to bolster the government and to root out alleged terrorists; that set off an insurgency by nationalist and Islamist groups. There have been human consequences.

    Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News tells that story. A caution to viewers: Some of the pictures you will see are quite graphic.

  • JONATHAN MILLER, ITV News Correspondent:

    They still run for cover, but the only place left to run is away, away from the hellhole that Mogadishu's become once again. And 600,000 now have fled, a third of them in the past two weeks alone.

    The bloodletting is relentless; it has been for weeks now. Probably hundreds dead, hundreds more wounded, no one really knows amid violent chaos and suffering so awful that finally it's forcing the world to take notice.

    Downtown, our Somali cameraman happens across a spontaneous demonstration against the Ethiopian occupiers, blamed by residents for the maelstrom that's engulfed their city. "We beg Allah," she says, "to end this occupation."

    Among these people, a masked insurgent, an Islamist. "Worse is to come," he warns. "Long live Somalia!"

    But it doesn't come much worse than this, the U.N. says. This, the body of an Ethiopian soldier, one of several caught by insurgents and dragged through the streets by a mob in a scene reminiscent of 15 years ago, when the U.S. Black Hawks went down, and American bodies were dragged through the streets.

    The Americans pulled out, but Ethiopian troops are locked down in Somalia, bogged down in a quagmire, Christian troops in a Muslim land.

    This is the aftermath of the reprisal for the desecration of the dead Ethiopian soldiers, their biggest humiliation so far. Ethiopian tanks shelled civilian homes. A house-to-house hunt ensued as they searched for insurgents, many civilians killed and wounded.

  • SOMALI CIVILIAN (through translator):

    The Ethiopian troops came in. All the men in the neighborhood ran away, and we locked our doors. They were shooting all night, until 9:00 in the morning. You've seen all the bodies, the wounded. They didn't spare anyone. The injured bled to death, because no one could reach them. They've left us in this mess, to suffer. May God drive them out.

  • JONATHAN MILLER:

    The reprisals triggered the latest exodus. Mogadishu residents fled in the tens of thousands.

    Our cameraman was trapped in this building, pinned down for two days and nights, terrified, unable to move.

    Medina Hospital, the only functioning hospital in the capital, filled up with injured. They're used to gunshot wounds, shrapnel wounds here. More than 5,000 injured in Mogadishu so far this year, 110 casualties, though, in just one night.

  • DR. HASSAN OSMANIS, Medina Hospital:

    Medina Hospital, you know, has long experience for this kind of situation for eight years, and it is one of the most difficult days we have so far seen.

  • JONATHAN MILLER:

    Afgoye, once a sleepy fruit-growing town 20 miles east of the capital, 200,000 people have now sought refuge here, half of them since the beginning of November. Little huts cluttering the landscape, just like Darfur, but this is a humanitarian catastrophe that the U.N. now says is the worst in Africa. They call it "the forgotten emergency."

    Tell-tale signs of a nation on the brink of famine. Our cameraman went back to find these two acutely malnourished children he'd filmed in October. They're no better, and now they've been joined by more.

    These children are very ill. The head of the U.N. in Somalia says most in here are likely to die. Few aid organizations are prepared to brave the lawlessness. There are unknown thousands unable to make it to makeshift emergency centers, Somalia's unreached and unseen. Malnutrition rates now nearing 20 percent among under-fives, way over the U.N.'s emergency threshold.

    There are dire warnings now that, as the insurgent said, things will, indeed, get worse. The U.N. secretary-general has publicly stated that a peacekeeping mission is neither realistic nor viable. The harvest's failed. Violence prevents aid getting through. And as the bloodshed relentlessly escalates, Somalis fear they have been forsaken.

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