The UN refugee agency said on Friday it was closely following the situation around the Somali port city of Kismayo as thousands of residents fled in anticipation of new clashes.
“The Refugee Agency puts the figure at more than 10,000 adding that 7,500 people fled the area in the past four days amid growing tension”.
Human Rights Watch said earlier in August that Kenyan armed forces and other parties to the conflict in Somalia should make every effort to minimize civilian harm during military operations ahead of a major military offensive being mounted to the capturing of the strategic town from the Al-Shabaab fighters.
The UN report adds that most of the internally displaced Somalis are leaving Kismayo and its surroundings on minibuses with poorer households undertaking the journey in lorries and trucks, in some cases using donkey carts. Majority of those fleeing are said to be moving towards Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, and the refugee camps in Dadaab, north-east Kenya.
The United Nations also adds that the displaced fear being caught in the crossfire and possible reprisal attacks by armed groups operating in the town. Human Rights also warned Kenyan authorities need to ensure that measures to minimize civilian casualties are in place for all its military forces insisting that all forces should respect the laws of war, regardless of their status.
UNHCR also added that in eastern Ethiopia, 200-300 Somalis continue to arrive at the Dollo Ado camps every week mainly from the Gedo, Bakool and Bay regions and most of the new arrivals cite insecurity, fighting and fear of forced recruitment in Somalia as the main reasons for leaving their homes.
Somalia crisis remains as one of the worst humanitarian ones in the world, generating the largest number of refugees. More than a million Somalis live as refugees in the neighbouring countries like Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti and another 1.3 million are internally displaced across Somalia.