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Border fighting between Kenya and Somali guerrillas flares up

The longstanding tension between Kenya and Somalia is bubbling away under the surface as Somalia continues to claim that Kenya's barren Northeastern Province is rightfully Somali territory.

The province's sparse population is mostly of Somali origin. Many owe allegiance to Kenya, but large numbers are known to regard themselves as Somali nationals.

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A continuing nightmare to the Kenya security authorities are frequent raids by armed Somali shifta (guerrillas). Some are known to operate across the border. Cattle are stolen, and there are frequent clashes between shifta and border guards or police.

On Nov. 10, Kenya imposed a curfew from dusk to dawn along the Somalia border after an attack on the town of Garissa during which five people were killed.

Tempers also flared on the Somali border this past weekend as the Kenya government gave an ultimatum to the mainly Somali people of Northeastern Province to produce within 14 days the gangsters who recently killed a local district officer, Johnson Welimo.

The powerful commissioner of the province, Benson Kaaria, warned that if this were not done, development projects would be withdrawn, along with agricultural and water development officers.

Mr. Kaaria told a large gathering of Kenyan Somalis at Garissa that if another civil servant in the province is killed, he would "round up all the Somalis and put them in restricted villages."

The murdered district officer is believed to have been attacked by a band of Somali bandits, either from across the Somali border or operating inside Kenya.

Kenya fought a small-scale border war between 1963 and 1966 against roving bands of guerrillas sent in from Somalia, which claimed portions of Kenya as Somali territory.

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The raids took Kenya, which had only just received its independence from Britain, by surprise, and conflict raged across the somali border and deep into Kenya for three years. At that time, the Kenyans were aided unofficially but effectively by units of the British Army.

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