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Bomb scare causes panic at Kenya's largest refugee camp

Thursday, May 03, 2012

GARISSA, Kenya, May 3 (Xinhua) -- There was a security scare on Thursday at the UN refugee agency compound in Dadaab complex in northeast Kenya, causing panic among the UN and humanitarian officials providing the emergency services in the camp.

The normal business at the camp which mainly houses Somali refugees was sparked by a huge round black paper bag that had been mistaken for an explosive device was found lying right in the middle of the road a few meters from the CARE international offices.

The huge compound hosts several humanitarian offices of different organizations, with their respective officials residing inside.

Word spread in the compound and within Daadab town quickly leading to a huge crowd gathering outside the gate of the UNHCR anxiously waiting to see the said "bomb".

Security officers from the near by Dadaab police station were quickly called upon to come and collect the "bomb" only to find the huge round black paper lying on the ground.

Security officers had a difficult time keeping away anxious residents from the town who wanted to get in the compound to see for themselves the "bomb".

There were however conflicting reports with other eye witnesses saying that police took the "explosive device" that was discovered hidden inside the soil.

"These people (police) are very clever, we saw them collect the bomb and pack it in their car, if it was a mere black paper bag as they claim why then did they carry it away, they merely don't want to create tension that was their a few months ago," said one of the residents who sought anonymity.

"One wonders how the explosive found itself in the compound that is highly guarded by the police," he added.

The UN refugee agency has warned of growing insecurity in camps sheltering thousands of Somali refugees from the Horn of Africa nation.

The UNHCR says the situation is particularly worrisome in Kenya's Dadaab refugee complex, the largest settlement in the world.

Nearly 500,000 refugees, most of them Somalis, are living the Dadaab camp and the UN agency says it is extremely concerned about their safety.

The refugee agency said the camp's inhabitants have been under threat from improvised devices, kidnappings, vehicle hijackings and banditry over the recent past.

Regional deputy police commander Philip Ndolo said that ballistic experts rushed to the UNHCR compound after receiving the information but found a black polythene bag rolled in circle.

"It was nothing serious as reported, but polythene - made football, in fact the staff and officials from UNHCR together with our officers who went at the place really laughed when they discovered that it was nothing serious," Ndolo told Xinhua by telephone.

He however commended those who took it upon themselves to alert the security officers about the suspicious object saying that "it was important to be sure of the safety of one's environment".

Security officers have been the biggest casualties of the land mine and grenades attacks targeting them while patrolling the refugee camps in the northern region.

A series of attacks that were masterminded by members of the Al- Shabaab group and their sympathizers took immediately after Kenya send its troops to Somalia to fight members of the Al-Shabaab militia.

More than 10 security officers lost their lives as a result of the attacks that were mainly planned by Al-Shabaab, with Dadaab and Garissa being the most affected districts in northeastern province.


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