Somalia: MSF suspends campaign due to fighting


Kenyan security forces search on October 15, 2011 near Liboi, Kenya's border town with Somalia, where it is believed two Spanish aid workers kidnapped from Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp, in the company of five men of Somali appearance were last seen being marched towards the border. The Spaniards, both logistics officers with the aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, Doctors Without Borders), are now believed to be in lawless Somalia. Kenyan forces will pursue gunmen accused of a spate of kidnappings of foreigners across the two nations' border, the internal security minister said.


Tony Karumba

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has suspended a measles vaccination campaign on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, because of heavy fighting between Al Shabaab militants and African Union peacekeepers, the aid agency said Saturday.

The organization also known as Doctors Without Borders had been vaccinating children against measles, a disease "currently wreaking havoc in Somalia," the group said. Much of the country is experiencing a devastating famine after being hit by drought.

"Combined with malnutrition, measles is now the main killer of children in Somalia,”  Duncan McLean, head of MSF programs in Somalia, said in a statement. “Only vaccination can stop the spread of the epidemic.”

MSF said heavy fighting broke out October 20 in Daynile, just outside Mogadishu, between Islamic militants from Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab and forces from Somalia's transitional government, backed by African Union peacekeepers. Many residents from the area fled the fighting, MSF said.

Medical staff treated 83 people injured by gunshots and explosions, the aid organization said.

More from GlobalPost: Somalia's Al Shabaab militants claim to have killed dozens of African Union peacekeepers

More from GlobalPost: African Union denies Mogadishu massacre

Al Shabaab on October 20 claimed to have killed dozens of African Union peacekeepers from Burundi. Photos posted on a Somali-language news website appeared to show lines of at least 20 bodies dressed in military uniform, and surrounded by crowds. 

Agence France-Presse reported that more than 70 dead bodies were displayed outside Mogadishu.

But the AU later denied that the bodies belonged to its troops, and called Al Shabaab's claim "propaganda." 

The AU did admit that 10 of its soldiers had been killed in fighting, and two others were missing, BBC News reported.

According to the BBC, "in the past, the AU has been reluctant to admit to heavy losses."

More from GlobalPost: 2 aid workers kidnapped in northern Kenya