Source: The Washington Post/The Associated Press
Kenyan military aircraft will target and destroy weapons that were flown into Somalia on two planes and delivered to Islamist militants, a military official said Wednesday.
A U.N. arms monitoring group has documented many instances of money, fighters and weapons being given to militants or flown into areas of Somalia they control. Kenya’s military on Tuesday said it had reliable information that two aircraft landed in the Somali town of Baidoa with weapons on board intended for al-Shabab militants.
A July report by the U.N.’s Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea said that al-Shabab controls two large airports and one former military airport with asphalt runways. Al-Shabab may then be capable of chartering and receiving deliveries by aircraft, it said.
The report also said that illicit flights with weapons or fighters for Somali militants could be originating from Eritrea, Yemen or the United Arab Emirates. Eritrea on Tuesday denied that it was arming any fighters in Somalia.
Kenyan military spokesman Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir said Wednesday that military planes would target and attack those weapons so they cannot be used. He said intelligence showed that the weapons were transported to a militant camp.
“Our focus is to reduce the effectiveness of those particular weapons,” he said. “At the end of the day you get weapons but these are weapons they cannot use.”
Chirchir has warned that the Kenyan military will attack 10 Somali towns where it believes al-Shabab has a presence and advised civilians to stay away from al-Shabab camps. Kenyan forces are moving in on the port city of Kismayo, one of the places with a large runway that al-Shabab controls.
Al-Shabab fighters closed down roads leading to Baidoa airport on Saturday, a Nairobi-based security official said. Hours later, residents heard heavy weaponry being fired, he said, citing information from informants in the town. The organization the official works for does not allow him to be identified by name.
Mohamud Abdulahi Wehelie, a member of Somalia’s parliament, said he spoke to three witnesses who said a white plane landed with weapons. Al-Shabab men hurried to offload it, the witnesses told him, and some items that appeared to be bombs or grenades fell from the door.
The Kenyan military did not say from where the planes carrying weapons originated.
The U.N. report said Eritrea consistently denies providing military support to armed groups in Somalia, but that “new information … not only confirms many previous allegations of Eritrean military involvement, but also offers firm grounds to believe that Eritrea still retains active linkages to Somali armed groups.”
Eritrea gives about $80,000 a month to al-Shabab-linked individuals in Nairobi, the report said.
Kenyan forces moved into Somalia in mid-October to attack insurgents following a string of kidnappings by Somali gunmen inside Kenya. Kenya has said the military incursion had been planned for months. Al-Shabab has threatened to carry out terror attacks in Nairobi in response.
Elsewhere, a small group of al-Shabab militants fired rocket propelled grenades at a Kenyan army convoy near the border late on Tuesday, said Ali Hussein, a Somali military commander. All the grenades missed except one which damaged a vehicle, he said. Chirchir said one Kenyan soldier received minor wounds in the attack.
Associated Press reporter Katharine Houreld in Nairobi and Abdi Guled in Mogadishu, Somalia contributed to this report.