Kenya steps up Somali border security to halt militia escapes

Kenya sent extra troops to the Somali frontier yesterday, underlining fears that Somali Islamic Courts militiamen may slip across the border after losing a power struggle.

The 400-mile border remained open and the Kenyan government said that it did not expect an influx of refugees after Somalia's transitional government and its allied Ethiopian forces routed the Islamic Courts Union, which had controlled most of southern Somalia until last month.

While Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said Somalia's neighbour Kenya had a humanitarian obligation to take in civilians at risk, Kenya's Foreign Minister, Raphael Tuju, said: "There's no reason at all to allow an influx of people unless there are women and children and it's really, really obvious that they are in danger in their own country. At this particular time, we don't see that danger." He added: "Anyone coming to the border has to be screened properly."

Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi has said he believes major fighting was over, but in recent weeks hundreds have been displaced, and many have headed toward Kenya.

Meanwhile, government forces said they captured two more southern towns from the Islamic Courts.

Three suspects in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in East Africa are believed to be leaders of the Islamic movement and US Navy vessels were deployed off the Somali coast to block any militants escaping.

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