June 9, 2017 / 5:59 PM / a month ago

Five killed in southern Somali city in fight over food aid

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MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Five people were killed in crossfire between two groups of government soldiers on Friday when fighting broke out during the distribution of relief food in the southern Somali city of Baidoa, police and witnesses said.

The incident happened in the afternoon at a site where food aid was being distributed to people displaced by drought earlier this year. Baidoa is about 245 km northwest of Mogadishu.

"Two groups of soldiers clashed on the scene where food was being distributed. Five people, mostly women, died in the crossfire and 14 others were wounded. It was an accident and the case is being followed and investigated," Major Hussein Edin, a police officer told Reuters.

Witnesses said the displaced people were caught up in the crossfire as they lined up for food.

"Unexpectedly, fighting broke out at the scene of food distribution. I could see many lying after the clash as I ran for my life," Mohamed Nur, a resident who was at the scene, told Reuters by phone.

Somalia is slowly recovering from drought, potentially reducing the risk that the Horn of Africa nation plunges into famine. The drought had led to some 6.2 million people - about half the country's population - requiring food aid.

Families from rural areas moved to cities to search for food as animals died and water sources dried up.

Somalia is struggling to recover from more than 25 years of civil war and an ongoing battle between its U.N.-backed government and Islamist insurgents.

(Corrects to show Baidoa is in southern, not central Somalia)

Editing by George Obulutsa and Toby Davis

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