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Pace Of Somalis Fleeing Fighting Picks Up

Pace Of Somalis Fleeing Fighting Picks Up, UN Refugee Agency Reports

New York, Sep 19 2006 10:00AM

More than 3,400 Somalis, mainly women and children, have fled the conflict between Islamists and warlords to neighbouring Kenya in the past six days, bringing the total so far this year to over 26,300 and raising fears that the influx could increase after renewed fighting over the weekend, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

“Some claim that they have been personally attacked by armed militia, while others say they fled because their neighbours were killed and they feared a similar fate,” UN High Commissioner for Refuges (UNHCR) spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva.

“People crossing the border generally suffer from extreme fatigue and many children appear malnourished,” he added, noting that the refugees reported walking from Mogadishu, the capital where the Islamic Courts Union took control in June, Kismayo and Baidoa, headquarters of the Transitional Government.

On Friday, UNHCR in Kenya received 442 Somalis, up from about 300 a day earlier in the week. Yesterday, the agency transported 662 refugees who arrived over the weekend at the Kenyan border town of Liboi to its camp at Dadaab.

“UNHCR fears that the numbers may further increase following militia fighting over the weekend in Dobley, a village 18 kilometres from the Liboi border,” Mr. Redmond said, noting that two refugees died on arrival and a wounded man was transported from Liboi health center to Dadaab for treatment.

“We are also concerned that the attempt to assassinate the Somali transitional government president (Abdullahi Yusuf) yesterday in Baidoa may cause additional displacement,” he added.

UNHCR Africa Bureau director Marjon Kamara, who has called on Somalis to find a way to reach a lasting peace so that the refugees can go home, is in northern Somalia today to visit Hargeisa for a two-day visit in Somaliland. Her visit will also include a trip to Bossaso, where she will meet internally displaced people and community leaders

In all, Kenya hosts more than 227,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia and Sudan.


Ends

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