Kenya drawing up timetable to close refugee camp for Somalis

NAIROBI - Kenya is drawing up a timetable to close Dadaab refugee camp that hosts about 350,000 Somalis because of security concerns, the interior minister said on Wednesday, after the United Nations urged the East African nation to reconsider such a move.

Kenya, which has suffered from a spate of attacks claimed by the Islamist Somali group al Shabaab, has set up a taskforce to handle the closure plan, Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery said.

"They will present the timetable based on all the resources required," the minister told a news conference, adding that state funds had been allocated to proceed with the program.

"The government has commenced the exercise of closing the complex of Dadaab refugee camp," he said, without specifying what new action had been taken beyond a voluntary repatriation program already in place.

US Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement voicing deep concern about the decision and urging Kenya "to maintain its longstanding leadership role in protecting and sheltering victims of violence and trauma ... and not forcibly repatriate refugees."