The United Nations relief chief for Somalia has appealed to warring factions in Somalia to end violence, saying the ongoing fighting in war-infested Mogadishu has greatly increased suffering of Somalis.
In a statement issued in Nairobi on Friday, Eric Laroche, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, condemned the recent violence in Mogadishu, the heaviest since African Union peacekeepers arrived in Somalia earlier this month.
Laroche called on all combatants, whether in uniform or not, to desist from further acts of aggression and to respect civilian life.
'This is a tragic situation. Tens of thousands of people are fleeing Mogadishu and civilian casualties are mounting daily," Laroche said in a statement.
"The dragging of bodies through the streets is barbaric. This is a gross violation of international humanitarian law, and these kinds of acts must cease immediately," he added.
More than 20 people have been killed when fighting resumed in Somalia this week during clashes between Ethiopian-backed government forces and Somali insurgents.
Sheikh Dahir Aweys, the ousted Supreme Council of Islamic Courts (SCIC) leader, has called on Somalis to resist the occupation of African Union (AU) troops and Ethiopians.
The latest violence was triggered by a government crackdown on the insurgents, many of whom are believed to be remnants of the ousted Islamists who have returned to the capital after being driven out with the help of Ethiopian forces late last year.
Internal Affairs Minister Mohammed Mohamoud Gulled said government troops were clearing insurgents ahead of April's reconciliation conference. Gulled told reporters in Mogadishu that the operation would last for seven days.
The insurgents have carried a series of deadly attacks since their return largely in the capital claiming dozens of lives and forcing at least 40,000 people to flee the city.
"The neutral and impartial humanitarian response desperately required can only take place if there is unimpeded access," Laroche added.
Recent statements by the warring parties naming areas to be targeted for security operations are already resulting in further displacement of civilians.
Loroche said movement of local UN staff in Mogadishu is severely restricted by the violence, while humanitarian access from outside the city is currently impossible.
The humanitarian chief called for immediate access to all civilians affected by the recent upsurge in violence.