Somali bomb attack targets president Abdullahi Yusuf
The attack undermines a UN-mediated cease-fire signed last week between the government and opposition groups as the country's humanitarian crisis worsens.
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Meanwhile, other UN officials warned of a looming refugee and food crisis that could rank among the world's worst current humanitarian disasters.Skip to next paragraph
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On Monday, a UN official told the BBC that the humanitarian crisis in Somalia was worse than in Darfur. He said that some 3.5 million people would need emergency food aid in the coming months due to a combination of the country's political instability, droughts, currency problems, and rising food prices.
Mark Bowden, the UN's humanitarian co-ordinator for the region, says the food crisis is dramatically worsening....
[He] says Somalia has become one of the world's most challenging humanitarian crises. He fears that there is now a sense of fatalism about what is happening to the country.
In more than a dozen interviews with The Associated Press, the newest arrivals from Mogadishu told of relentless shelling and gunfire. Several children said their friends were forcibly recruited into militias. And they all described frantic escapes, with many walking for weeks to reach Dadaab, hitching rides on donkey carts or squeezing into strangers' cars.
"I couldn't live in Mogadishu anymore, my whole family would have been killed eventually," said Osman, 25, who left Mogadishu three months ago, hours after identifying his mother's body. He begged a ride in a car with a crowd of strangers, holding up his daughters – age 2 and 4 – to persuade the driver.
Somalia was plunged into chaos in 1991 when warlords ousted dictator Siad Barre, creating a power vacuum. The United Nations helped set up a transitional government in 2004. But the weak government was unable to exert control over much of the country.
In 2006, it called on Ethiopian troops to enter Somalia to help fight Islamic militants.
The US backs the Somali government and has helped train and equip its Ethiopian allies. The US says the Islamic insurgents have ties to Al Qaeda, and has launched gunship and missile attacks on suspected terrorist leaders in Somalia.
According a recent report in The Guardian, some Western intelligence officials are concerned that Somalia – along with Algeria and Yemen – could become a new front in the fight against Al Qaeda, as the terror group loses ground in Iraq.
Officials talk about the appeal of an "attractive area of ungoverned space". This is Somalia, described as an increasingly popular destination for "western jihadists", though al-Qaida is playing only a small part in the violence there, western intelligence officials suggest.