The Nation (Nairobi)

6 January 2007

Kenya: Seven Oromo Liberation Front Fighters Held in Garissa

Nairobi — Seven Oromo Liberation Front fighters yesterday surrendered in Garissa District after crossing from Somalia as security forces continued to patrol the border.

This brings the number of suspected foreign fighters being held in North Eastern province to 23.

The district police chief, Mr Johnstone Limo, said two of the fighters surrendered at the Liboi border, 20 km from the Somalia, while five others surrendered at Kulan Administration police camp.

Mr Limo added that the unarmed men looked tired after walking for three days to the border.

He said it was baffling how the rebels managed to come through the heavily fortified border without being detected or intercepted by the Kenyan military, which is patrolling the border stretching more than 2,000 kilometers from the province to the Indian Ocean.

Combatants

The police boss said the fighters claimed they were in Somalia for the last two months but did not give reasons.

He said: "We believe they were combatants fighting alongside the routed Islamic Courts militia, and who are now escaping."

Mr Limo added that a senior Administration policeman, Mr Omar Shurie, who is leading AP officers deployed at the border, is escorting those who surrender to Garissa divisional headquarters, where eight other Islamists fighters are being held.

The police chief said the fighters feared being captured by Ethiopian troops and "opted to hand themselves to Kenyan authorities to be given a safe passage to a third country."

OLF is a rebel outfit active in the Ethiopian South West region of Oromia. It is fighting for an autonomous status.

The surrender comes a day after the security forces held a meeting with Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces and Ethiopian troops at Harhare, near Liboi, where Ethiopian war planes dropped bombs on Tuesday.

Mr Limo said it was agreed both conduct joint patrols to ensure such mishaps do not happen again.

The police chief said no vehicle will be allowed to enter Somali until the security situation improves.

Intense fighting

Also, trade at Dhobley town, which is between Liboi and the Somali, has suffered in the last two weeks following the border closure over insecurity.

A Kenyan businessman, Mr Abdiweli Abdirizak, told the Nation on phone that most traders have closed shop after they ran out of provisions, which are usually brought from the Kismayu, which has been the scene of intense fighting between TFG backed by Ethiopian troops and the islamists.

Mr Abdirizak said prices of basic commodities have shot up, adding, some shopkeepers were hoarding essential commodities so as to drive the prices high.

The businessman added that close to 1,500 Somali refugees are camping at no-man's land after they were denied entry into Kenya.

He said they were living in squalid conditions without basic necessities. The businessman warned of a humanitarian crisis if the situation was not addressed. The blocking of the refugees has sparked a diplomatic spat between the Government and the UN refugees authorities.

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