4,000 flee south Yemen fighting: UN refugee agency

24th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

The UN refugee agency said on Friday that at least 4,000 civilians have fled fighting between Yemeni forces and militants in southern Yemen since last weekend.

Government forces since Sunday have been locked in a standoff with up to 100 suspected Al-Qaeda militants in the Shabwa province town of Huta, according to Yemeni authorities.

"We are concerned about the security and safety of the population affected by the current conflict around Mayfa'a district and hope that all measures have been taken to prevent casualties among civilians," said Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

"Our estimate is that the ongoing clashes -- which flared up on Sunday -- have so far forced some 4,000 Yemeni civilians to leave their homes," he added.

Most of the displaced sought shelter in neighbouring villages and at the UNHCR's reception centre in Mayfa'a, which normally handles refugees fleeing across the sea from the Horn of Africa including Somalia, Mahecic said.

Analysts have said that Al-Qaeda is strengthening in Yemen's southern provinces.

© 2010 AFP

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