By UNDP Newsroom
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The United Nations refugee agency is working with the Yemeni Government to gain access to a group of Africans who were detained following a weekend incident in which one man was killed and two women were seriously wounded during a gun battle between the army and smugglers.

The Somali man and the two non-Somali women were among a group of African migrants that had just arrived in Yemen and were being boarded onto trucks bound for neighbouring Saudi Arabia, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The gun battle occurred on Sunday afternoon in Al Sabiel, which lies some 200 kilometres west of Aden and is the main entry point in Yemen for migrants crossing the Red Sea.

“According to survivors, military vehicles surrounded a smuggling convoy in the process of boarding passengers from the Horn of Africa. Shooting broke out when the smugglers tried to escape,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told a news conference in Geneva.

Currently, some 51 non-Somalis are in detention pending further investigation, while another Somali is reported missing and presumed to have fled. The army has handed over five Somali males to UNHCR's partner, the Yemeni Red Crescent, and they are being assisted at the Bab al Mandab transit centre.

The survivors told UNHCR that they were among passengers from a smuggling boat carrying some 60 Africans from the Horn of Africa that departed from Djibouti on Sunday and reached Yemen's coast later the same day.

According to the agency, nearly 19,260 people from the Horn of Africa have reached the shores of Yemen this year after fleeing their homes due to war, poverty, famine and drought.

Accra / Ghana/ Africa /