Kenya sends more troops to Somalia, 10 AU soldiers killed
Fri Oct 21, 2011 7:23pm GMT
* Kenyan advance delayed due to heavy rain
* Shabaab shows dozens of bodies
* Somali, Burundi officials say troops missing (Recasts with eyewitness
report of Kenya sending more troops)
By Feisal Omar and Abdi Sheikh
MOGADISHU, Oct 21 (Reuters) - Kenya sent in more troops to fight al Shabaab
militants in southern Somalia on Friday as the African peacekeeping force in
Mogadishu acknowledged 10 of its soldiers had died after a heavy battle
against the rebels in the capital.
East African officials held an emergency meeting to discuss the
deteriorating situation in Somalia, five days after troops from Kenya poured
across the border in pursuit of kidnappers it says are linked to Somalia's
The Kenyan military said its forces had taken two towns, but a spokesman for
a militia allied with the government in Mogadishu said the advance had been
stalled by heavy rain.
Armoured vehicles and trucks carrying weaponry, food supplies and tents were
seen leaving four military camps and heading towards the Somali border on
Thursday and Friday.
"More army men aboard military trucks are still passing here, heading to
Somalia," said Ali Barre, a resident at Diff village in Wajir south
district, near the Kenyan-Somali border.
"The whole area is like a war zone. It's like the whole of our military is
going to Somalia," said Barre, adding that convoys of military vehicles had
been crossing the border for the last four days.
Somalia's Western-backed government has claimed victories this year in the
capital against al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda-linked rebel movement fighting to
impose a strict form of Islamic law.
But Shabaab fighters still hold some districts of the capital. Thursday saw
a heavy battle in the capital's Daynile district.
AMISOM, the AU force fighting alongside Western-backed government troops,
said at least 10 of its troops had been killed in battle in Mogadishu and
said the true toll could still climb.
Al Shabaab displayed dozens of bodies in army fatigues to journalists late
on Thursday, saying they were AU soldiers killed in the latest fighting in
the capital. Reuters television filmed militants tossing some bodies out of
A Reuters photographer counted 76 bodies, some of whom had helmets and flak
jackets, laid out nearby.
The African Union peace force, made up of some 9,000 troops from Burundi and
Uganda that defend the Mogadishu government, initially called the claims
that large numbers of its troops were killed "propaganda". However, it
acknowledged on Friday taking casualties.
"As was to be expected, given Daynile's significance, the operation has
encountered heavy resistance but steady progress is being made," AU force
commander Major General Fred Mugisha said in a statement.
The statement said at least 10 of the force's soldiers had been killed and
two were missing so far.
Burundi said at least six of its soldiers in the peacekeeping force had been
A Somali military official said more than 10 Somali government soldiers were
missing. A senior Burundian military official said 11 Burundi peacekeepers
were missing. Both officials asked not to be identified due to the
sensitivity of the operation.
KENYANS TAKE TOWNS
After a spate of kidnappings against foreigners that have threatened
neighbouring Kenya's tourism industry, Kenyan troops moved suddenly into
southern Somalia on Sunday to try to secure the porous border from the al
Qaeda-linked Shabaab rebels.
Kenyan military spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir said on Friday Kenyan troops had
secured the towns of Oddo and Kolbio, near the frontier.
The troops, backed by Western-backed Somali government troops and allied
militia, have been blocked by rain from making fast progress to capture
rebel bastions in the south.
"We have not taken a step further today. It is raining," Abdinasir Serar, a
spokesman for Ras Kamboni, a militia nominally allied to the government,
Al-Shabaab fighters have hunkered down in the rebel bastion of Afmadow where
residents are bracing for a confrontation.
A Kenyan security official said two Kenyan soldiers were killed and four
wounded when they were ambushed by al Shabaab militants in an area close to
Its large-scale incursion into Somalia makes Kenya the latest neighbour to
become deeply involved on the battlefield in a country that has not been
effectively controlled by a government in nearly two decades. Al-Shabaab
have claimed responsibility for attacks in neighbouring countries, and are
viewed throughout the region as a serious security threat.
Regional group IGAD held an emergency meeting to discuss Somalia in Addis
Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, on Friday. Kenya sent its foreign and defence
ministers and armed forces head.
Kenya has long looked nervously at its anarchic neighbour and has launched
some brief incursions in the past, but this operation is on a much larger
scale, raising the risk of reprisals from al Shabaab.
Al Shabaab forces were driven out of most of Mogadishu in August under
sustained pressure from the government and the AU troops as well as internal
rifts and funding shortages.
However, the militants have still managed to carry out deadly attacks
against government institutions. Earlier this month they carried out the
worst attack on Somali soil since 2007 -- a suicide truck bombing that
killed more than 70 people.
Kenyan security forces arrested two doctors on Friday in a Nairobi
neighbourhood with a large Somali community.
"Ali Omar Salim and Adan Hassan Hillow were charged with engaging in
organised criminal activity on or before October 20 in Nairobi ... (and)
found engaging in an organised criminal activity by being members of al
Shabaab," their charge sheet at Nairobi chief magistrate's court said.
Deputy police spokesman Charles Owino said the two had been detained in
Nairobi's Eastleigh suburb earlier this week.
"We are cracking down everywhere. Within the country and in Somalia," Owino
A local al-Shabaab website said Kenyan troops had arrested three clerics on
Thursday, including Sheikh Hassan Hussein, who is on a U.N. sanctions list.
A Security Council report on Tuesday said Hussein had been involved in
recruiting new members and soliciting funds for the militants. (Additional
reporting by Sahra Abdi and Humphrey Malalo and Duncan Miriri in Nairobi;
Patrick Nduwimana in Bujumbura; Noor Ali in Isiolo; Writing by Yara Bayoumy)
C Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved
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Received on Fri Oct 21 2011 - 18:51:59 EDT