Wednesday, October 24, 2012
MOGADISHU, Somalia -- The Ugandan contingent of AMISOM prepares to advance towards Baidoa along with the Somali National Army at the recently captured Ballidoogole Airbase in sector one. AU-UN IST PHOTO / TOBIN JONES.
NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenyan troops in the UN-backed Africa Union peace keeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) said Tuesday they have arrested 72 suspected Al-Shabaab militants as pacification operations continue in the Horn of Africa nation after the capture of the port city of Kismayo.
Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) spokesman Colonel Cyrus Oguna said among those arrested on Sunday is a woman - Marianna Issa Mohammed - who was identified by residents of Kismayo as the Al-Shabaab women leader.
"A house to house search conducted on Oct. 21 led to the arrest of 72 suspected militants and a recovery of an assortment of weapons," Oguna said in a statement released in Nairobi on Tuesday.
KDF said relative peace was also steadily returning to the port city, once the bastion of the militants as residents appealed to the United Nations to lift ban on charcoal it imposed early this year.
He said KDF and Somalia National Army (SNA) operating in Sector II in southern Somalia are continuing with pacification operations in the strategic port city.
"The local residents have been in support and collaborating with the forces towards pacification efforts," Oguna said.
The Kenyan operation code-named Linda Nchi (Protect our Nation) has mostly enjoyed a solid public backing for its resoluteness in dealing with the threat of the Al-Shabaab on the economic, social and political interests of Kenya.
The port city of Kismayo, Al-Shabaab’s only remaining stronghold was captured by Kenyan soldiers and other allied forces on Sept. 28 after a spirited gunfire between the insurgents and AMISOM forces.
The militant group has also come under pressure from Uganda, Burundi and Sierra Leone soldiers who recently pushed out them out of the outskirts of Somali capital Mogadishu and other key regions they used to control two years ago.
Analysts say the loss of the seaport is a major blow to the insurgents who once extorted much of their revenue from traders and businesses utilizing the facility.
Oguna said five militants attempting to cross into Kenya on Monday were intercepted by KDF troops near Kolbio as the insurgents blamed for bomb and grenade attacks in the East African nation flee a major crackdown by AMISOM forces in southern Somalia.
"Two KDF soldiers were injured during the interception, three Al-Shabaab were neutralized (killed) and two were injured, two AK 47 and an RPG were recovered," Oguna said.
He said economic activities continue to thrive at the port city with five ships carrying foodstuffs and cement docking at the Kismayo sea port on Tuesday.
"On the socio-humanitarian front, UN and WHO representatives visited the area on a fact finding mission and were received warmly by the locals," he added.
Kismayo, with a population of about 200,000 people is the third largest city of Somalia which is considered the hub of the militant group, Al-Shabaab, which formally merged with the dreaded global terror network, the Al-Qaida, after several years of pledging loyalty and ideological similarities.
Oguna said AMISOM forces in Sector II remain steadfast in creating an environment to allow for socio, economic and political leadership growth by Somalis for Somalia.
Last week, Oguna said seaport operations were picking up as residents appealed to the UN to lift the ban on charcoal business.
According to a UN report, Al-Shabaab used to pay for weapons and fighters with the monthly 1.25 million U.S. dollars it used to earn from taxing traders and from the export of charcoal, trade that was banned by the UN Security Council Resolution which was adopted in February.
The charcoal business had become the insurgent’s most lucrative source of income according to the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.
The KDF which is part of the AMISOM forces that have been strategizing for ways of setting up an all inclusive local administration to run the port city said the soldiers are still continuing with efforts to stabilize security situation in Kismayo.
Kenya blames Al-Shabaab for the kidnappings of foreigners, and fears its tourist and business economy will be destroyed if it allows the insurgents to go on unchallenged.
Kenya has appealed to Somalis and those in the Diaspora to embrace peace say no to agents of terror and prepare for the hard work of national reconstruction.
Kenya has also put security in key towns on a high alert following Kenya’s military operations in Somalia which sparked threats from the Al-Shabaab group that it will retaliate deep in Kenya.