Hospital workers said at least 30 casualties a day were pouring into Mogadishu's overstretched clinics from inter-clan clashes in Medina in the south.
A United States military team arrived in Kenya yesterday to boost international aid efforts. Thirty-three soldiers flew into Mombasa, which will be the main base for shifting the 145,000 tons of food promised by the White House. Sixty more troops are expected by the end of the week.
'The looting and banditry will not stop after the troops arrive,' said Steve Tomlin, a field director with the American medical charity International Medical Corps. 'They will have to fight if they wish to stop it. It is essential they be fully equipped to do the job.'
Mr Tomlin said the fighting between looters did not signify a breakdown of a UN-brokered ceasefire signed by Mohamed Farah Aideed, a leading warlord, and the self-styled president, Ali Mahdi Mohamed. 'There's bloodletting going on down there . . . but it's a criminal rather than political matter,' he said.
Relief workers are under constant threat of attack. A Red Cross boat finished unloading yesterday at Mogadishu, where people are shot daily in quarrels over bags of grain. Its Ukrainian captain, Oleg Nikitchenko, said he took three weeks to discharge a cargo that would normally take a week to unload. 'It is an incredible situation,' he said. 'Several people were killed before my eyes.'
The United Nations World Food Programme was forced to stop unloading a ship in the southern port of Kismayu on Sunday after gunmen looted sacks of rice and grain on the quayside and stole food oil and 200 tons of sorghum.
Aid bodies welcome what they say is a belated decision to send 500 armed UN troops from Pakistan to guard the port, airport and food convoys, but they say many soldiers more will be needed.