An increasing number of children are being caught in attacks and crossfire across south and central Somalia, the U.N.'s children agency said Tuesday, as a land mine targeting police exploded at the world's largest refugee camp in neighboring Kenya, wounding two people.
UNICEF said that 24 children were killed in conflict in Somalia in October, nearly double the confirmed child killings of every other month this year. UNICEF said 58 children also were confirmed to have been injured in October, the highest number this year.
UNICEF's representative to Somalia, Sikander Khan, said the true numbers are likely to be even higher.
"Somali children's lives are being put more and more in grave danger with the increasing conflict. In accordance with international law, we call on all parties to the conflict in Somalia to stop all killing, maiming, recruitment for armed services and rape of children," Khan said.
Kenyan troops moved into Somalia to fight al-Shabab militants in mid-October, but a UNICEF spokesman, Jaya Murthy, said UNICEF is not attributing the increased violence to a particular group.
The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militants claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Mogadishu last month that killed more than 100 people.
UNICEF is one of the few international agencies that has access to southern Somalia, a region that is largely controlled by al-Shabab militants.
"Generally, we've seen an increase in violence and armed confrontation and children have been caught in that violence," Murthy said.
Meanwhile, a Kenyan government official said an explosive device went off at the Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya on Tuesday, wounding two guards. The official asked not to be identified because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media. A U.N. security official said the blast appeared to be aimed at a police convoy that had just passed by.
No one was killed, but the blast happened only a couple yards (meters) from another improvised explosive device blast at Dadaab earlier this month, in the latest sign Somali militants are increasing attacks at the camp. Militants also kidnapped two aid workers from Dadaab last month. The attacks have forced aid agencies to scale back operations.
The U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday that there are 60 cases of cholera in the world's largest refugee camp _ Dadaab, in eastern Kenya. One person has died from the outbreak.
UNHCR said the cases were believed to have been contracted in Somalia, as refugees were en route to Dadaab. Heavy rains in eastern Kenya are complicating efforts to fight the outbreak.
"Rains and flooding had affected the trucking of water to parts of the camps, and we fear some refugees resorted to using unsafe water from flooded areas," UNHCR said in a statement.
Elsewhere, the Danish Refugee Council, which had two of its workers kidnapped in Somalia last month, said Tuesday that traditional elders and members of civil society are mobilizing for the quick and safe release of the two workers.
American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Thisted _ aid workers with a de-mining unit of the Danish Refugee Council _ are being held hostage.
The Danish Refugee Council said release efforts are being supported by a "substantial" number of Somali leaders who oppose kidnappings as contradictory to Somali values. It released a statement it attributed to the Habargedir clan condemning the kidnapping and asking for the release of the Buchanan and Thisted.
Associated Press writer Katharine Houreld in Nairobi, Kenya contributed to this report.