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Kenya to Attack 10 Somali Towns as Arms Arrive for Militia

City of Baidoa among the cities planned to attach

By Paul Richardson
Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Kenya’s military said it plans to “continuously” attack 10 towns in Somalia including Baidoa, where it said two unidentified aircraft delivered weapons to the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab group.

Other towns that are being targeted include Baydhabo, Afgooye, Afmadow and the port city of Kismayo, Major Emmanuel Chirchir, spokesman for the Kenya Defence Forces, said in statements on his Twitter account.

“The Kenya Defence Forces urges anyone with relatives and friends in the 10 towns to advise them accordingly,” he said. “Operation Linda Nchi is on course to advance to Kismayo on schedule.”

Operation Linda Nchi, which means ‘Protect the Nation’ in the Swahili language, began on Oct. 16 when Kenyan forces started an incursion into Somalia to combat al-Shabaab rebels it accuses of kidnapping tourists and aid workers in Kenya. Al- Shabaab denied the allegations and threatened to carry out reprisal attacks.

Kenya and Somalia’s prime ministers on Oct. 31 called for a blockade of Kismayo, the biggest port south of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, which serves as the main supply route for the al-Shabaab militia. Chirchir said last month Kenyan forces are “willing to celebrate Christmas” in Kismayo if it takes that long to arrive there. The army hasn’t provided any other time frames for its planned advance.

Key Supply Route

The two aircraft that landed in Baidoa on Oct. 29 may have originated in Eritrea, the Nairobi-based Standard newspaper reported today, citing unidentified websites in Somalia that quoted al-Shabaab. Baidoa, 224 kilometers (139 miles) northwest of Mogadishu, is also a key supply route used by the militia, the newspaper said.

Eritrea’s government said reports that it’s supplying arms to al-Shabaab are “pure fabrications and outright lies,” according to a statement e-mailed by the Horn of Africa country’s Foreign Ministry.

“Eritrea has consistently maintained, and on the record, that there can be no military solution to the problem of Somalia,” the ministry said. “Instead, it has been repeatedly calling for a Somali-owned political process.”

Eritrea may be providing financial and logistical support to armed opposition groups in Somalia and other countries including Uganda, Djibouti and Ethiopia, according to a July report by the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.

“Eritrea has conclusively shown that there is no evidence to support claims of Eritrean financial backing to al-Shabaab, the monitoring group itself having acknowledged that it had no proof of any Eritrean military involvement, including arms supplies, in Somalia,” the Foreign Ministry said today.

--Editors: Alastair Reed, Karl Maier, Gordon Bell

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Richardson in Nairobi at [email protected].

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at [email protected]