Sixty thousand Somalis flee battle by Kenya border: UNHCR
About 60,000 Somalis have fled heavy fighting close to Somalia's border with Kenya over the past week, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday.
The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said they fled during a lull in a battle between a militia group allied to the Somali government and Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab group for control of the border town of Bulohawo.
"Fierce clashes in the Somali town of (Bulohawo) on the Kenya border have driven some 60,000 Somalis out of their homes over the past week," UNHCR spokesman Andre Mahecic told journalists.
"Most of the displaced have fled to nearby villages and some have crossed into Kenya," he added.
Many of the 40,000 displaced inside Somalia were living under trees or in the open without water, food or sanitation, while heavy rain has hit the area increasing the risk of disease.
Others, including 5,000 who were registered by the UNHCR, fled across the border around the northern Kenyan town of Mandera, with refugees camping out in the open a few hundred metres from a border crossing.
The UNHCR appealed to Kenyan authorities to speed up attempts to move the refugees away from the area amid reports that Shebab was regrouping to retake Bulohawo.
UNHCR said it was examining if it could provide aid to the displaced just inside Somalia.
© 2010 AFP