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UN 'disturbed' by terror crackdown on Somali's

17 April 2014, 17:59

Nairobi - The UN refugee agency said Thursday it was "disturbed by reports of harassment and other abuses" in a Kenyan counter-terrorism operation targeting Somalis that has seen thousands arrested and scores expelled.

Conditions in a sports stadium being used as a giant holding pen and in police stations are "overcrowded and sanitary conditions are inadequate," the UNHCR said in a statement, adding that 82 Somalis had been deported back to their war-torn country.

Kenyan authorities launched the mass round-ups earlier this month, saying they needed to weed out sympathisers of Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels following a string of militant attacks.

The operation has focused on Nairobi's main Somali district Eastleigh, and residents have accused police of indiscriminately arresting people of Somali origin.

Rights groups and analysts have also condemned the roundups.

"The round-up and mass detention of Somalis in Nairobi... deliberately conflated immigration issues with counter-terrorism and has widened dangerous communal divides," said Cedric Barnes of the International Crisis Group (ICG), warning the crackdown "will probably backfire."

Somalia's Shebab claimed responsibility for attacking Nairobi's Westgate mall last year in which at least 67 people were killed, and Barnes warned the round ups would play into the extremists' agenda.

"Al-Shabab and its extremist allies in Kenya will be very satisfied," Barnes said.

"What the attack on Nairobi's Westgate mall last September failed to do -- sow division among Kenyans -- might well be achieved by these detentions and deportations."

Last week Human Rights Watch accused Kenya of "scapegoating and abusing" Somalis, saying such action "is not going to protect Kenyans, Somalis, or anyone else against more attacks."

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