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Kenya: Relief Group Ready to Go to Somalia


The Nation (Nairobi)- The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Nairobi is preparing to deliver relief aid to war victims in Somalia.

"In the coming days, ICRC aircraft will fly to several destinations in Somalia to deliver surgical and other medical supplies," the committee said in a statement yesterday.

Head of ICRC in Somalia Pascal Hundt appealed to the warring parties to ensure that medical staff and humanitarian workers were not caught up in the battles.

Assist civilians

"In cooperation with Somali Red Crescent Society staff, our people areworking tirelessly to assist the civilian population and wounded persons throughout the area and we are urging all parties to to ensure the relief workers are safe," he added.

ICRC estimates hundreds of people to have died and thousands have fled their homes in the on going fighting in Somalia.Some 800 war victims have been admitted in hospitals with injuries they sustained since the fighting began.Aeroplanes have been regularly landing in Somalia to deliver medical supplies to victims of the floods that recently devastated the area. According to the statement, an ICRC cargo plane flew to Bardera twice yesterday to deliver relief for victims of the floods.

Safety of wounded

The Committee, expressed concern about civilians caught up in the fighting, those who have been injured as well as people who have been detained in connection with the fighting.

It appealed for the safety of wounded fighters saying they should be treated humanely and be given adequate medical attention.

Hospitals, clinics and medical staff should also be respected and protected, said Mr Hundt.

ICRC which has been operating in Somalia since 1977, also runs water, health and agricultural projects.

It also

supports three hospitals in Mogadishu and supplies 23 clinics with surgical equipment and medicine as well as offering training for doctors and nurses.

The clinics are run by the Somali Red Crescent Society.

Currently it has 54 staff there, including 17 expatriates.

Finnish Foreign Minister "concerned" Over Somalia

Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja Friday expressed concern over events in conflict-ridden Somalia and said the European Union had urged the withdrawal of all foreign forces.

Ethiopian forces and transitional Somali government forces Thursday gained control of the capital Mogadishu, previously held by the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC).

Tuomioja told public broadcaster YLE that although Somalia appeared to be more calm, "the situation is instable and there is no administration that functions normally."

Finland on January 1 hands over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union to Germany.

Tuomioja said that the United Nations had the main responsibility for finding a solution to the Somalia conflict, followed by the African Union. However, the EU was monitoring events and offering humanitarian relief.

The Finnish foreign minister said there were no plans to deploy EU rapid reaction forces in Somalia.

ROUNDUP: UN Resumes Flights Into Somalia After Capital Falls

The United Nations resumed air operations into war-torn Somalia on Friday, after the transitional government sealed all borders during a 10-day military offensive against the once- powerful Union of Islamic Courts (UIC).

The government wrested the capital Mogadishu from the UIC on Thursday and declared that it would allow humanitarian flights into the war-torn country.

"The United Nations Common Air Services, which is managed by the World Food Program (WFP), resumed humanitarian flights into Somalia on Friday with a plane leaving Nairobi for Hargeisa in northern Somalia with humanitarian workers and cargo," the UN's food distribution agency WFP said in a statement.

Another flight was scheduled to arrive in Wajid, 300 kilometres north-west of Mogadishu, on Saturday.

WFP suspended air operations to the country's south this week following a security warning from the UIC, which was chased away from most of the towns it controlled by Ethiopian-backed forces, but still has a presence in the southern region.

"The government's Ministry of Air and Land Transport has officially authorized the resumption of all UN humanitarian flights with immediate effect," said a statement from OCHA, the UN's humanitarian body.

Much of Somalia has been ravaged by floods that have killed hundreds and displaced some half a million people. The UN has been flying into the flood-affected regions because the rains have made roads impassable. OCHA said road access had in recent days improved.

Since fighting began last week, aid agencies warned that an escalation of violence between the Ethiopian-backed troops and the UIC could hinder their humanitarian work.

Islamic leader vows to stay in Somalia

KISMAYO, Somalia - Somalia's Islamic leader vowed Friday to continue the fight against Ethiopia.

"We will not leave Somalia," Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, the executive leader of the Council of Islamic Courts told The Associated Press. "We will not run away from our enemies. We will never depart from Somalia. We will stay in our homeland."

He spoke from the southern coastal port of Kismayo, where his forces retreated after abandoning the capital Mogadishu, which they had held for six months.

The Islamic movement had taken control of much of southern Somalia, often without fighting, after defeating a coalition of warlords to capture Mogadishu in June. But its fighters collapsed when Ethiopia, which has the most powerful army in the region, sent reinforcements across the border to help Somalia's internationally recognized government.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had vowed Thursday to crush fighters he described as extremists in the Islamic movement and their foreign allies, predicting it would take a few weeks longer.

Ahmed's movement had pledged to bring Quranic law to Somalia, and some of its members espoused an extreme form of Islam. The United States accuses the movement of harboring al-Qaida terrorists.

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