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Somalia: Armed opposition crosses into Kenya, civilians fleeing from Puntland

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Elements from the insurgent group opposing the Somali transition government, Harakat Al-shabab Mujahideen (aka 'shebab') claim to have attacked areas across the Somali border into Kenya and to have taken control of "various districts and villages in the border area". Somali media said that 'shebab' members in the southern Somali regions said that the villages were taken without the need to fire a single shot. Kenya has not issued any statement in this regard and formally, the Somali-Kenyan border has been closed and it is being controlled by army units. Meanwhile, in Nairobi, the HUN Humanitarian Office (OCHA) confirmed rumors that a large number of Somali civilians have been fleeing from Puntland, the Somali autonomous region in the north. Witness accounts said that many Somalis living in Mogadishu and other large towns in Somalia fled to Puntland (and especially Galkayo) to escape the violence. In recent weeks the local population in Puntland has targeted the newcomers forcing them to flee. The residents of Galkayo have contested the refugees from southern Somalia because the former are convinced that there might be sympathizers of armed groups, hiding among the refugees, believed to have played a role in a series of attacks and explosions that took place in the city recently. [AB]