A missile hit a hospital ward packed with civilians wounded in fighting between Islamic insurgents and Ethiopian troops allied to the Somali government, an official said. It was not immediately clear whether the missile caused additional casualties.

The ward housed 20 to 30 wounded adults, said Wilhelm Huber, regional director for SOS Children’s Villages. Injured children had been evacuated earlier, he said.

Five missiles landed on the hospital grounds in the lunchtime attack, but only one struck a patient ward, Huber said.

He said he did not believe the hospital had been deliberately targeted, but added that the missiles clearly came from government forces because of their flight path. “People are desperate,” Huber said. “This is a tragic situation.”

At least 13 shells have hit the grounds of the hospital and a children’s orphanage in the last six days, including the latest attack, he said.

Earlier in the day, civilians were caught in crossfire as Ethiopian troops used tanks and heavy artillery to pound insurgent strongholds, witnesses said. Hundreds of people have been killed in eight days of fighting.


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