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Food reaches 6,000 stranded Somali refugees - UN

By Staff
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Google Oneindia News

NAIROBI, Jan 13 (Reuters) Food aid began reaching 6,000 Somalis on Friday trying to flee fighting in their homeland but blocked from entering Kenya, the United Nations said.

A war over the New Year that ousted south Somalia's six-month Islamist rulers sent thousands of civilians heading for the border with Kenya.

But Nairobi sealed its border and blocked their entry in a bid to prevent fleeing Islamists -- accused of harbouring al Qaeda suspects -- from escaping into their territory.

''These people fled fighting between the Transitional Federal Government, Ethiopian forces and the Union of Islamic Courts and were trapped near Doble by the border closure, so it is vital to assist them,'' said Leo van der Velden, UN World Food Programme (WFP) deputy country director for Somalia.

Local non-governmental organisation WASDA yesterday started delivering WFP rations sent by trucks from Kenya to the 6,000 Somalis stranded in Doble village, and another 12,000 residents in the area hosting them and also in need of aid, WFP said.

The ongoing hunt for fugitive Islamists in south Somalia by Ethiopian and Somali government troops -- aided this week by a U.S. air strike -- has left another 190,000 people cut off from humanitarian relief, the agency added in a statement.

As well as conflict, a drought at the start of 2006 followed by floods at the end of year have piled on the misery for Somalis, whose nation was already one of the world's poorest.

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