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[Dehai-WN] (IRIN): KENYA-SOMALIA: Paying high price for military incursion

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Fri, 13 Jan 2012 18:13:05 +0100

KENYA-SOMALIA: Paying high price for military incursion

ISIOLO-NAIROBI, 13 January 2012 (IRIN) - Security, service delivery and
economic activity in northeastern Kenya have deteriorated considerably since
October 2011, when the country's military forces deployed in neighbouring
Somalia in an effort to eradicate the Al-Shabab militia, which has vowed to
avenge the incursion.

In December alone, at least 15 incidents involving grenades or improvised
explosive devices (IEDs) occurred in the regions of Garissa, Wajir, Mandera
and Dadaab, where some 463,000 people, mostly Somalis, are housed in the
world's largest refugee complex. (See box)

In the latest incident on 11 January, at least two police officers and four
civilians were killed in a raid at the Gerrile border post in Wajir area;
other government officials were reported missing, presumably abducted.

Al-Shabab said on its Twitter account that it carried out this attack.
Several blogs reportedly associated with the group also said one of its
units was responsible for
<http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=94596> killing a refugee
leader in Dadaab in December because he helped the authorities to locate
IEDs there.

Confirming the Gerrile incident, the regional commissioner Wenslas Ongayo
said an operation was under way to rescue the missing officials.

One local government official in the northeast, who asked not to be
identified, told IRIN the insecurity had restricted his duties.

"As a senior civil servant and a supervisor, I am supposed to travel to
remote parts of Mandera, some areas very close to the Somali border," he

"Since my life is important to me and my family, I no longer make any field
trips since the Al-Shabab killed three government workers [there] two months

Aid affected

An aid worker in Mandera, on the Somali border, said thousands of hungry
families who relied on food aid had been affected by the withdrawal of
relief agencies.

"How can NGOs believe repeated pledges by the government that it will
protect them, whereas almost a dozen of our officers in the police and army
have been killed in attacks staged by Al-Shabab in Mandera this year alone?"
asked the aid worker.

The police commander in Northeastern Province, Leo Nyongesa, said security
measures had been stepped up.

"We are doing a lot; our forces have arrested many Al-Shabab fighters and
agents and foiled a number of attacks," Nyongesa told IRIN.

Nyongesa added that the spate of grenade attacks against security personnel
would not deter Kenyan security forces in their quest to fight "terrorism".

"We shall endeavour to protect citizens, aid workers and aliens in our
territory," he said in the provincial capital, Garissa, after the New Year's
Eve killing of several people in two pub attacks.

The police force, he said, had also punished some officers after they were
implicated in assisting criminals disguised as refugees.

Heightened threat

Hussein Omar, a local government official in Ijara, which also borders
Somalia, said the council had lost revenue because the livestock trade had
come to a stop in this largely pastoralist area.

Food prices had also increased with local traders no longer able to import
goods from Somalia. "Many traders have been forced to quit business after
the border was closed," he told IRIN.

An education official in Ijara said hundreds of pupils and their teachers
had been affected following school closures.

In addition, Kenyan authorities and foreign governments have warned of
heightened threat of attack in the capital, Nairobi.

In a travel warning, the British government said: "We believe that
terrorists may be in the final stages of planning attacks. Attacks could be
indiscriminate and target Kenyan institutions as well as places where
expatriates and foreign travellers gather, such as hotels, shopping centres
and beaches."

"Before, our work was just to guard people's belongings but that has changed
because everybody is a potential terrorist," William Wanyama, a security
guard in a Nairobi supermarket, told IRIN.

At a bus-stop, Lydia Muema, who was waiting to travel out of the capital,
said: "Nairobi is not Nairobi any more because the oncoming car could be
carrying somebody who is planning to hurl a grenade at you.

"Now, I try to avoid crowded places as much as I can. You are always in fear
even when in a tall building."

In 1998, the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam were bombed, killing
258 people. The attacks were claimed by Al-Qaeda, which has links to some
elements of Al-Shabab.

George Bwana, a supermarket manager, said customer numbers had dropped.

"Many people believe the city centre is the place any terrorist would want
to strike and now people prefer to shop closer to where they live," said
Bwana. "If you talk to bar owners here in the city, they will tell you the
same thing about a declining number of patrons in the evenings."


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Received on Fri Jan 13 2012 - 12:13:26 EST
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