UPDATE 1-Seven shot dead in Kenya near border with Somalia

Thu Feb 21, 2013 5:40am EST

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NAIROBI Feb 21 (Reuters) - Gunmen killed at least seven people as they made their way to pray at a mosque in the remote Kenyan town of Malele close to the Somali border, a local government official said on Thursday.

Kenya has been hit by a wave of grenade and bomb attacks since its troops crossed into Somalia in October 2011 and has blamed al Qaeda-linked Somali militants and their sympathisers.

Malele is close to the world's largest refugee camp, Dadaab, which holds nearly half a million people, most of them Somalis who have fled more than two decades of war and famine.

"The bandits opened fire at the villagers at Malele area which is near the Dadaab refugee camp in Liboi district and killed five men and two women," Maalim Mohamed, Garissa County Commissioner, told Reuters. "We have dispatched a team of security personnel to pursue the bandits."

The attacks in Kenya, the region's biggest economy, have deepened fears of insecurity ahead of a general election in March. The attackers have mostly targeted the remote northeast.

Following the attacks, Kenya's government in December moved to stop asylum seekers and refugees registering to live in urban areas. (Reporting by Humphrey Malalo; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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