- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 13, 2008

MOGADISHU, Somalia | Gunmen shot and killed two Somali aid workers and wounded a third within 24 hours, witnesses said Saturday, in the latest sign of spiraling violence against workers struggling to deal with the war-ravaged country’s humanitarian crisis.

The shootings all occurred within a few hours of each other on Friday. Two men were shot in separate incidents about eight miles from the capital of Mogadishu. One, who worked for an aid organization affiliated with the U.N.’s World Food Program, was reported in serious condition.

The other, Mohamed Mohamud Qeyre, died, said colleague Ahmed Mo’alim. Mr. Qeyre was the deputy director of local aid group Daryeel Bulsho Guud, which is affiliated with the German organization Bread for the World.

“Two men shot him three times in the head and the ribs,” Mr. Mo’alim said.

In a third incident, local clan elder Ahmed Shire Yabar said aid worker Mohamud Ahmed Roble was killed in Galharei town in central Somalia. He said Saturday he did not know the name of the organization the victim worked for.

“He was going to a mosque and he stepped out of his home; two men armed with pistols shot him four times and escaped. He died on the spot,” Mr. Yabar said.

Violence against aid workers in Somalia has dramatically increased in the past few weeks. One senior Somali aid worker for the United Nations was kidnapped last month, and another fatally shot July 6. A driver for the U.N. World Food Program was killed at a checkpoint on Monday, and Friday’s shootings brings the total number of aid workers shot during the week to five.

It is unclear who is behind the killings, since many factions in Somalia’s chaotic war stand to benefit from them. Powerful local leaders have previously complained that aid workers were feeding Islamic insurgents who had sworn to fight the government, and insurgents have targeted Somalis affiliated with foreign organizations in the past.

The problem has been compounded by the growth of professional kidnapping rings, who security experts say have been encouraged by the large cash ransoms paid by foreigners to release ships taken by pirates.

The Islamists vowed to fight an Iraq-style war against the government and its Ethiopian allies in December 2006, after Ethiopian troops dislodged the Islamists from the capital and much of the territory in southern Somalia they had held for the previous six months.

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