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Four Somali refugees killed by gunfire near Kenyan border, UNHCR reports

Four Somali refugees killed by gunfire near Kenyan border, UNHCR reports

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today voiced concern for the safety of Somali refugees encamped near the Kenyan border after four people fleeing long-running clan warfare were killed by stray gunfire.

This morning the UN agency airlifted relief supplies to some 10,000 Somali refugees who have fled to the remote north-eastern border town of Mandera, Kenya, to escape weeks of armed clashes between clans in towns and villages just over the border, a UNHCR spokesman said in Geneva.

Amid growing fears for the safety of the refugees, two planes flew medicines, high-energy biscuits, water tanks, tents, plastic sheets and vehicles to the distant town on the border junction between Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, spokesman Ron Redmond said. Another plane carrying mainly medical supplies was sent on Thursday from Nairobi.

According to the spokesman, four refugees were killed on Wednesday by stray gunfire as fighting flared again between rival sub-clans just opposite Mandera on the Somali side of the border. The dead refugees were among a group of several thousand currently living in makeshift shelters along the Kenya border from Mandera town. Seven other refugees at the site suffered shrapnel wounds.

“UNHCR is shocked by the killing of innocent civilians who were seeking safety from more than four weeks of fighting in their home areas,” Mr. Redmond said at a press briefing. “We are now in urgent discussions with the government of Kenya on transferring the refugees, either to a temporary site away from the insecure border area or to an existing refugee camp at Dadaab, some 400 kilometres to the south.”

The outbreak of fighting in Somalia's Upper Gedo region in mid-April sent two waves of refugees into northeastern Kenya, the spokesman said. The first wave of some 5,000 people entered Mandera nearly a month ago, while a second influx of roughly the same number sought safety at the beginning of May.