SONOMAH, Somalia (Reuters) – Somali villagers have asked authorities to stop sending landmines to areas near the Somali border, local media said on Tuesday, amid heightened tension between Somalia’s government and rebels over the conflict.
More than 6,000 people have been killed in the three-year-old conflict in the Horn of Africa nation.
The government has blamed rebels for using landminals in some areas, but critics say the landmine attack has killed civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands of Somalis.
Somalia’s government says more than 70,000 civilians have been displaced in the conflict, but the United Nations and human rights groups have said there is evidence that some villages have been bombed.
Civilians have been fleeing areas of conflict near the border, in an attempt to flee to other areas of Somalia where there is less conflict.
Satellite images released by the United States military on Tuesday showed a crater in the ground next to the town of Mokungu, which has been a major rebel stronghold since the conflict began in 2011.
“I can tell you the landmined area has become completely deserted,” said Mohammed Ahmed Abdi, a resident of Moulay Gombe, about 30 km (19 miles) from Mokung, the military said.
“We are not able to move at all,” he told Reuters.
The army said on Monday that it had recovered more than 100 landminions in the region.
On Monday, the United Arab Emirates said it was evacuating people from the border area, which is a major transit point for people fleeing Somalia’s conflict.