Kenyan forces enter the fray in southern Somalia

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The Kenyan government has sent a large number of forces into southern Somalia to attack Shabaab strongholds there. Kenyan forces are said to be coordinating their operations with Somai troops. From Al Jazeera:

Kenyan troops have crossed into Somalia and have driven out al-Shabab fighters from two bases near the border in a joint operation with Somali soldiers, according to a Somali military commander.

Kenya has said it will hunt the fighters they accuse of being behind several recent kidnappings of foreigners.

Abdi Yusuf, a senior Somali military commander, said on Sunday that fighter jets struck two al-Shabab bases in southern Somalia, but could not confirm if the aircraft belonged to Kenya.

“There have been air strikes in … al-Shabab bases near Afmadow late yesterday and today. We are heading towards Afmadow now. Al-Shabab have already vacated the town,” he said.

Alfred Mutua, the Kenyan government spokesman, said that its troops had entered southern Somalia to fight the al-Shabab, who it says are responsible for attacks on its territory.

Al-Shabab response

In response, al-Shabab called on Somalis to rally and attack the Kenyan troops.

“Kenya violated the territorial rights of Somalia by entering our holy land, but I assure you that they will return disappointed, God willing,” Sheikh Hassan Turki, a senior al-Shabab leader, said.

“Mujahideen fighters will force them to test the pain of the bullets.”

Turki called on Somalis to stand united against “this blood-thirsty enemy that has crossed into our territories and the apostate Somali militants helping them”.

Several witnesses reported heavy troop movement in Kenya’s border regions, with lorries full of soldiers heading towards the frontier.

The assault came a day after George Saitoti, Kenya’s interior security minister, branded al-Shabab “the enemy” and pledged to attack them “wherever they will be”.

In response to Kenya’s deployment of forces in Somalia, Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage warned that Shabaab would retaliate with suicide bombings in Kenya, saying “[R]emember what happened in Uganda’s capital,” a reference to the 2010 Shabaab suicide attacks in Kampala that killed 76 people, according to The Associated Press.

Kenya’s decision to send troops into Somalia is interesting, as the Kenyan military has hitherto been cautious and largely stayed out of the fight in Somalia, with the exception of some border clashes with Shabaab. If Kenyan forces are in Qooqaani, and are moving toward Afmadow, then they’ve moved about 40-50 miles inside Somali territory.

It remains to be seen if the Kenyans are committed to taking the fight to the port city of Kismayo, Shabaab’s stronghold in the south. A large number of Ethiopian forces, backed by US airpower, were required to eject the Islamic Courts Union, Shabaab’s predecessor, from Kismayo back in early 2007. The fighting in Kismayo was heavy before the Islamic Courts retreated and regrouped to retake the city just one year later.

Shabaab has suffered setbacks this year, including giving up the areas of Mogadishu under its control last summer. But the terror group still holds large areas in southern and central Somalia, including the ports of Marka and Baarawe, and the southwestern cities of Baidoa and Baardheere.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Paul says:

    Happy hunting Kenyans!

  • Max says:

    I think he meant “taste the pain of the bullets”, not test

  • Yancancook says:

    “Kenya violated the territorial rights of Somalia by entering our holy land”
    The Al Kabab franchise getting a lot more media coverage these days.
    The article make me think, where have the Kenyans forces been all this time? Why do they choose to establish situational awareness after their neighbor had fallen apart? Why wait this long? When is a porous border with the most chaotic country on earth, a new problem? Whatever the answer, I smell US Tax payers dollars burning. Just one detail, not one penny more from the US treasury. Kenya should have been perusing their own interests in Somalia for ages cause it was the right thing to do. They are already a recipient of US foreign aid dollars so there is no current or future need for AFRICOM to dump any more taxpayer dollars into crone capitalist projects in Africa. I say that to anyone listening, who thinks the US taxpayers are not watching for future wasted efforts in Africa. Please please, no more spending!

  • Observer says:

    Surely it is at times better to die fighting like the Kenyans. Their soldiers and police men are being killed on a weekly basis, local administration undermined and all manner of terror attacks through out the country. Al Shabaab can be defeated within 5 weeks but is the West in sync with Kenya? After all their young citizens are largely the brains behind Al Shabaab. Retaliation? No problem, it is better to die fighting as the Kenyans have decided.

  • Mirage says:

    Go Kenya! Destroy the Al-Shabaab!

  • Johnsay says:

    Kenya may well have legitimate reasons for this intervention; however, it smells very much like a proxy fight.

  • Abu Samuel says:

    Kenya must be careful not to repeat the experience of the Ethiopians between 2006-2009.
    While the Ethiopians smashed the Islamic Courts Union and took control over large swathes of Somalia, they were nevertheless worn down by Al-Shabaab and its guerrilla tactics.
    It is also possible that like the Ethiopian intervention that this move by Kenya will also serve to whip up nationalist and religious sentiment against the ‘invaders’, and bring increased support for al-Shabaab.
    Developments in this matter should be watched very closely.

  • Spooky says:

    Somalis will fight and argue over everything, but they’ll always unite over foreigners intervening in their affairs, regardless of whether or not it is justified, to the misfortune of many.
    I wish the Kenyans luck and hope the annex territory up to the Juba river. Somalia isn’t going to come back in its current form anyway, so why give it to terrorists.


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