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Somali refugees shot in aid clash

Somali government troops have opened fire on hungry civilians, killing at least seven people, as both groups made a grab for food at a UN distribution site, witnesses said.

Onlookers accused government soldiers of starting the chaos by trying to steal some of the 290 tonnes of dry rations as the aid workers tried to hand them out in the biggest camp in Mogadishu for famine refugees.

Refugees then joined in the scramble, prompting some soldiers to open fire, the witnesses said.

"It was carnage. They ruthlessly shot everyone," said Abdi Awale Nor, who has been living at the camp. "Even dead bodies were left on the ground and other wounded bled to death."

David Orr, a spokesman for the World Food Programme, said the food distribution started smoothly at around 6am but degenerated a few hours later.

"We got reports of trouble, looting. The trucks were overwhelmed by a mob of people. There were reports of some shots fired," said Orr, who said he could not confirm any death tolls.

Thousands of Somalis have flooded into Mogadishu from the drought-stricken south. The drought and famine in Somalia have killed more than 29,000 children under the age of five in the last 90 days in southern Somalia alone, according to US estimates.

Somalia Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali visited the camp after the violence and said he was "deeply sorry".

Mr Ali said an investigation would be opened and promised harsh punishment for anyone found guilty.

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