[Dehai-WN] (Reuters): Somali rebels arm Kismayu against Kenyan assault

[Dehai-WN] (Reuters): Somali rebels arm Kismayu against Kenyan assault

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Thu, 3 Nov 2011 20:27:13 +0100

Somali rebels arm Kismayu against Kenyan assault

Thu Nov 3, 2011 5:50pm GMT

* Rebels dig trenches, hand students weapons

* Militants stop residents from fleeing

* Kenyan army aircraft land into Baidoa at their peril

* Al Shabaab ferrying weapons around by donkey, says Kenya (Adds more
residents, U.N. refugee agency)

By Abdi Sheikh

MOGADISHU, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Somali Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda
mounted weapons on roofs, dug trenches and armed students in the port of
Kismayu, warning the "Kenyan invasion" would lead to "cataclysmic

Kenya's military has warned Somali civilians to stay away from al Shabaab
militant bases in 10 towns to avoid being hurt in imminent strikes. But
nearly three weeks into a cross-border operation, the advance of Kenyan and
Somali government troops has become bogged down by heavy rains and thick

"They have put their weapons over us. Every high house in the city is a
defence for al Shabaab," said Fatuma Ali, who lives next to the rebel base
in Kismayu.

"Since Kenya mentioned the 10 towns, al Shabaab have been readying all their
weapons and small arms."

Angered by a wave of kidnappings and attacks on its soil, Kenya has been
dragged into the conflict in neighbouring Somalia, which has had no
effective government for two decades.

Al Shabaab has denied responsibility for the kidnappings, saying Nairobi is
using them as a pretext for its operation.

Kenya issued its warning of imminent attacks after it said it had received
intelligence that consignments of weapons had reached al Qaeda-linked
militants in the town of Baidoa.


Kenya's army spokesman said on Thursday any aircraft landing in the rebel
bastion would be considered a threat.

"All aircraft are hereby warned not to land in Baidoa. Anyone violating this
will be doing so at their peril," Emmanuel Chirchir said in a statement.

Kenya's navy intercepted a rebel skiff transporting fuel on Wednesday and
killed 18 al Shabaab combatants, he said.

Al Shabaab said Kenya was using the Baidoa arms cache discovery as an excuse
to bomb the rebel towns.

It is "apparent that the operation is not simply an attempt to defend
Kenya's territorial boundary as they claimed but rather a clever camouflage
for the full-scale invasion of Somalia", the group said in a statement.

"(Al Shabaab) hereby emphasises once more that the continued Kenyan invasion
and the callous disregard for civilian lives will have some cataclysmic

Al Shabaab was arming the populace, residents said.

"They gave arms to people and they're telling them to stay and defend the
country from foreigners," said Kismayu resident Amina Mahmoud. "They said
yesterday evening: 'Every one of you who dies here is a mujahid and will
enter paradise'."

Many Somalis were trying to flee towns, only to be stopped by militants who
want them to stay and fight. Some were lucky.

"My wife and children have managed to evacuate from Kismayu on the pretext
of looking for medical care," Kismayu resident Ise Sabriye told Reuters.
They carried no possessions to avoid catching the rebels' attention, he

In other towns, residents said the rebels had quit their bases and were
mixing with the population, making them more difficult to pinpoint as

"Al Shabaab fighters are all over the town but they're no longer seen in
groups. We see only four to five men in bases that were formerly crowded,"
Halima Aden told Reuters from Baidoa. Residents feared the strikes would hit
them too.

"I am sure Kenyan jets will fail to know who to bomb or not - the fighters
have scattered," Ahmed Nour in Baidoa said.

Kenya has east Africa's biggest economy and its troops are among the best in
the region. But some analysts say it lacks the muscle to deal a mortal blow
to al Shabaab, whose aim is to impose strict sharia Islamic law across

Torrential rains have hampered the operations of both sides and forced the
militants to resort to ferrying arms around the region by donkey, Kenya's
military said.

"Any large concentration and movement of loaded donkeys will be considered
as al Shabaab activity," army spokesman Chirchir said.

He urged Kenyan donkey traders along the frontier not to sell their beasts
to al Shabaab, warning they would undermine the military operation to crush
the insurgents.

The flow of Somali refugees into Kenya, exacerbated earlier this year by
famine, has slowed to a trickle due to a combination of heavy rains,
military operations families' fears of being caught in the crossfire, the
United Nations refugee agency said on Thursday.

"It is not surprising that many families are staying put because they may
feel it is not safe to get on the road and get caught in the crossfire,"
UNHCR spokesman said Andrej Mahecic in Geneva. (Additional reporting by
Richard Lough and Sahra Abdi in Nairobi, Stephany Nebehay in Geneva; Writing
by Yara Bayoumy and Richard Lough; Editing by Jon Hemming)

C Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved


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