On Wednesday, May 5, fighters from the Somali Islamic group Hizbul Islam attacked the country’s largest private refugee camp, the Dr. Hawa Abdi camp outside Mogadishu. A Hizbul Islam fighter died, alongside at least one camp security guard and reportedly eight children who were in critical condition in the Medicins San Frontieres camp clinic at the time of the attack. Around 20 camp staff were held hostage. This included, briefly, Abdi herself.
The Soviet-trained gynecologist has spent the last 20 years caring for refugees. She had always been careful to maintain neutrality amid Somalia’s warring groups. The attack shocked many Somalis.
There have been competing explanations. One of Abdi’s daughters claimed the attack was motivated by the Islamists’ desire to put down a powerful woman. On the other hand, local press reports claimed the Islamists wanted to extort money from the camp guards.
Now a War Is Boring correspondent writes in with additional info. “All this came [about] just after a guard from MSF owed money to a woman in the area,” Hiddig Jamaal reports. “Then the woman contacted Hizbul Islam for that case, and the commander with his staff went the clinic to arrest the man. Then conflict started between the two groups and the fight started like that, according to an eyewitness.”