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SOMALIA: EC advises partners to evacuate staff.

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Evacuation of international staff from Somalia.

NAIROBI, 21 Mar 2003 (IRIN)- The European Commission (EC) has advised international NGOs whose operations it funds in Somalia to evacuate their international staff.

The recommendation "to consider evacuation of their international staff from Somalia with immediate effect" was given to the NGOs on Thursday "as a precautionary measure until such time as the situation can be assessed as normal".

According to an EC advisory note, received by IRIN, it said that in view of the military action against Iraq, the EC delegation was urging its partners "at the very least to reduce their international staff inside Somalia to the absolute minimum".

International NGO sources told IRIN there was concern that the US government's military action in Iraq "may create adverse conditions in Somalia", a mainly Muslim country.

All international staff in EC liaison offices in the country would be evacuated, and all normally scheduled flights operated by its humanitarian branch, ECHO, would be suspended, the note said.

However, a report by the UN Security Office in Somalia said UN operations in the country would continue and all UN staff would remain in areas designated as safe.

The office said it did not have credible information that events in Iraq would prompt negative reactions in Somalia, noting that Somalis were too concerned about their own problems to worry about events in Iraq.

While there had been rhetoric during the Afghanistan war, no attacks on expatriates had taken place in Somalia, the security office pointed out. It said it would continue to monitor the situation in the country, and if at any moment the situation deteriorated it would evacuate staff.

SOMALIA: Ceasefire again violated as fighting resumes in Mogadishu.

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Heavy fighting in the Medina district of Mogadishu.

NAIROBI, 21 Mar 2003 (IRIN) -Heavy fighting has again broken out in the Medina district of Mogadishu, according to sources in the Somali capital.

The fighting pits militias loyal to faction leader Muse Sudi Yalahow against those led by his former right-hand man, Umar Mahmud Muhammad Finish. The clashes, which began on Tuesday, continued on Wednesday. At least 10 people have been killed and scores wounded, Medina resident Mahmud Abdi told IRIN.

He said the latest round of fighting was a continuation of the battles which erupted in late February.

"The two sides have been confronting each other for the last two weeks," he said. "It was just a matter of time before they started again."

Yalahow and Finish both belong to the Da'ud subclan of the Abgal, and the fighting is said to be a struggle between the two to gain supremacy within the subclan.

This is the latest violation of a ceasefire agreement signed last October by the Somali parties attending peace talks, mediated by the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Nairobi.

Somali sources attending the conference told IRIN it was up to the newly-created ceasefire monitoring committee to "start dealing with those who violate the agreement they signed".

"Condemnations are fine, but the committee should back them with action, otherwise no-one will take its statements seriously," one source said.

The African Union on Tuesday issued a statement expressing concern over the deteriorating security situation in Somalia.

It condemned violations of the cessation of hostilities accord and called for their immediate end, otherwise the AU "will call for imposing sanctions" against the leaders and parties responsible.




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