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KDF kills five and maim 150 Al Shabaab fighters

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

As Kenyans thronged churches and entertainment spots on Christmas Day the country’s military was literally in the trenches battling Al Shabaab under the blistering Somalia sun.

When the guns finally went silent, the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) had killed five members of the militant group and injured eight in the Southern Somali sector.

But signs there could a bigger war involving the Kenyan forces and Al Shabaab got cleared when the militia revealed it was marshalling its forces in Kismayu. This is the town out of which KDF wants to flush them out as the port town is considered to be its economic lifeline and logistical support base.

KDF spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir reported the Kenyan forces struck Kuday, a town South of Kismayu. In his latest update posted on Twitter, Chirchir confirmed KDF had hit targets in Wamaitho and Deida Adhi both in Lower Juba leaving at least150 injured, with some may be even dead.

In the same raid, one ‘technical’ vehicle popular with Al Shabaab fighters was decimated and one skiff (small boat) also destroyed. Chirchir urged civilians in Somalia to stay away from Al Shabaab bases to avoid being hit during air strikes.

Al Shabaab accuses Kenyan Air Force of hitting civilians in camps for the internally displaced and claiming victory, a claim that has been denied strongly by Kenya, which insists it only targets military installations.

Al Shabaab has not officially commented on the latest attacks by KDF, but the raids may be the closest yet to Kismayu and represent an escalation of the conflict. The deadly strikes appear targeted to soften Al Shabaab positions and to break their will to fight.

Curiously, the air raids have avoided Kismayu, possibly to prevent mass deaths, especially of civilians in this densely populated town in Southern Somalia.

According to Somali websites linked to Al Shabaab, the militia has stepped up training of personnel in and around Kismayu and is reportedly rushing extra militia from other areas of Southern Somalia to the port city to stave off a possible attack from the Southern Sector by KDF.

Kenya appears to be relying more and more on its air power to overcome the difficulties of roads made impassable as heavy rains continue to pound much of Southern Somalia. Movement of heavy military equipment and amour has reportedly been slowed down.

Back at home, police are expected to bring to court eight individuals suspected to be working with Al Shabaab including two who surrendered themselves to police on Saturday afternoon. They are Sylvester Owino Opiyo alias Musa Osodo and Hussein Nderitu Abbas alias Mohamed, who police brought under its radar claiming they "have vital information on Al Shabaab activities in Kenya."

"Police have cause to believe they have information which can assist us in unraveling any intended criminal activities by the Al Shabaab in the country," said the Police Spokesperson Mr Eric Kiraithe.

Mr Chacha Mwita, who represents Opiyo and Nderitu, said he was ready to battle police in court accusing them of engaging in "propaganda tricks". "Why did the police send out a dramatic public alert against my two clients when they could have easily contacted me and request me to avail them? Was it necessary to create a public scare? Do they have another agenda in mind?" Mwita asked.

More arrests

He also fought off claims that his clients violated bail terms insisting he was unaware of any condition beyond posting the Sh300,000 bond and a surety of a similar amount. Police had accused the two, who have ongoing cases of being members of Al Shabaab militia, of violating their bail terms.

Police have not yet revealed names of the other six who are being held in unknown locations. Last week, police arrested six other suspects in Nairobi and Mombasa in what it claimed was an operation to prevent an attack by the Somalia-based group during the busy holiday season.

Police are expected to arrest more people this week as the holiday season approaches its peak on New Year’s Day to prevent possible attacks.

The latest military encounter by KDF comes a few days after a commander of the Al Shabaab was reportedly killed in a fierce ground battle a few kilometers from Kenya-Somalia border but inside the neighbouring state.

Reports on the ground indicated that the rebel group was trying to move forces towards the Central Sector of the Operation Linda Nchi when they were intercepted by KDF ground forces, near Gerille in Somalia on Friday evening. The town that Al Shabaab lost in October after the Kenyan intervention in Somalia started, lies about 10 kilometres from the international border with Kenya.

Al Shabaab has not commented on the killing of Commander Abdirashid Garbe, slain alongside ten fighters on Friday evening. But a KDF officer in Gerille told The Standard inside Gedo in Somalia "Abdirashid Garbe who is a commander was killed by KDF."

Estimates indicate about 60 fighters, who were on foot, were involved in the fight in which KDF suffered no casualties.

Meanwhile the operation against the militia by KDF and Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces is on more than 100 kilometres inside Somalia’s Gedo Province.

The Kenyan military is trying to deter the militants’ attempts to regroup after routing them from a string of towns close to the Kenyan border.

Two months ago, a KDF soldier was killed in Busar in an ambush by Al Shabaab, which is being squeezed towards Bardheere after being ousted from many parts of Gedo including Garbaharey, which is held by a pro-TFG Islamic militia group calling itself Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a.

According to expert projections in Somalia, an assault on Bardheere would open the main highway to Baidoa, Al Shabaab’s stronghold in Bay and Bakool region.


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