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Red Cross Pulling Staff from War-Hit Capital of Somalia

December 12, 1991

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ The Red Cross said Wednesday it was pulling most of its aid workers from suburbs of the Somalian capital because shelling imperiled their lives. Hours later, a Red Cross worker was shot and badly hurt.

Rival factions of the ruling United Somali Congress have been fighting each other in a fierce, clan-based power struggle for more than three weeks that has leveled much of Mogadishu.

The relief worker was shot in the stomach as he was organizing food distribution at a hospital in the city. The worker, who was not identified, was the first foreigner hurt in a conflict that has killed more than 3,000 people and wounded 7,000.

Aid workers were essentially the only foreigners to remain in Mogadishu after Congress party rebels drove former President Mohamed Siad Barre from power in January.

″Our team in the northern part is in quite a bit of danger,″ said Gregoire Tavernier, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Nairobi. He said agency workers in the field had decided to evacuate seven of their remaining 10 employees.

Mogadishu’s four hospitals are located in the city’s south which is controlled by Gen. Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the United Somali Congress chairman whose fighters - from the Habar Gedir clan - are trying to oust President Ali Mahdi Mohamed.

Ali Mahdi’s Abgal clan fighters are resisting the challenge from their stronghold in the northern suburbs.

The Abgal and the Habar Gedir are subgroups of the Hawiiye clan, from which the United Somali Congress draws its support.

Thierry Durand of Doctors Without Borders, just returned from four days in Mogadishu, said much of the seaside city has been flattened by the constant barrages.

″The whole town has been badly destroyed,″ Durand said. ″It is worse than the destruction of January.″

Hundreds of thousands of the city’s 1 million residents have fled.

″The casualties coming into the hospital are really horrific,″ said Mathew Jowett of the British aid group Save the Children, who recently visited the city. ″Shell wounds, bullet wounds - lots of civilians. You see babies coming in with bullet wounds.″