alexa Shaken refugees flee battle zones - Daily Nation

Shaken refugees flee battle zones

Friday October 21 2011

By MUCHEMI WACHIRA and ISA HUSSEIN

Groups of Somali refugees started flocking into Kenya on Friday escaping military operations as more troops and heavy artillery continued to enter the war-torn country.

The refugees were fleeing from the lower Juba area in Southern Somalia controlled by al Shabaab.

The areas are under attack by the Kenyan forces pursuing the insurgents who are said to be behind a series of kidnappings of foreigners in the country.

Refugees carried personal belongings along Abdi Sugow road, a cut line that connects Kismayu and refugee camps in Kenya since the designated border points have been closed down.

The refugee story

According to refugees who appeared shaken, they had been abandoned by “human smugglers” who were to help them cross the border at a fee of Sh2,000 for a distance of 12 kilometres.

They had boarded a truck in Salagle and Dobley in Somalia. Dobley borders Kenya while Salagle is about 200 kilometres away from the border.

“We could not endure the constant sounds of gun shots and missiles and the frightening war planes covering the skies,” Fatuma Mohammed told Saturday Nation near Abdi Sugow Administration Police border post.

Mrs Mohammed, 37, explained: “We have trekked for two days, we are tired and we have been going without food and water. We are worried since we have more distance to cover.”

Mrs Mohammed said her husband had gone missing when people started fleeing following the airstrikes.

She said the men were escaping arrest fearing that they may be mistaken for having links with al shabaab.

Begging for water

Majority of the refugees were women and children. Some were walking bare feet while others very thirsty and had to beg for water from journalists and security forces.

One of the men, Abdi Kadir Ali who fled from Salagle said he could not stay in his house following the airstrikes.

“The airstrikes were frightening and deafening forcing us to seek refuge in Kenya,” the 35-year-old father of one who fled with his wife and son said.

“There are several other people holed up in Somalia and they are unable to escape,” Mr Ali said.

He said they have persevered the past internal war in their country together with the Ethiopian aggression and famine.

“This time the sound of the airstrikes was more frightening and we had no other option than to flee,” Mr Ali said in an interview.

A team of police officers from Dadaab police camp escorting journalists heading to Liboi, inspected the refugees’ luggage before allowing them to proceed to the camps, which are more than 100-kilometres away.

There has been no influx of Somalia refugees since the military operation started last week and UN staff manning the refugee camps in Dadaab suspended their operations.

So they have neither been registering new entrants nor transporting them from Liboi which is one of the designated entry points.

Meanwhile more troops continued to move to Somalia to reinforce the country’s Transitional Federal Government forces in their campaign to get rid of al shabaab insurgents.