Kenya Defence Forces jets supported by warships on Sunday destroyed a training camp for the Somali militant group Al-Shabaab as efforts to rout the Al-Qaeda-linked militia that is fighting the Somali Transitional Federal Government intensified.
Military spokesman, Major Emmanuel Chirchir, said the targeted Al-Shabaab training facility that is also used by Al-Qaeda to train fighters is based in Hola Wajeer in Badade District, Lower Juba.
« Today 20 November at around 12hrs, KDF jets supported by naval fire destroyed two Al-Shabaab/Al-Qaeda key training facilities in Hola Wajeer, » he said in statement.
In Mogadishu, reports said Al-Shabaab on Sunday ambushed KDF and TFG soldiers in Lower Juba region in southern Somalia.
One Somali official, who said he witnessed the fighting but did not wish to be identified, said a convoy of Somali and Kenyan troops travelling between Tabto town and the border town of Dobley were ambushed by Al-Shabaab fighters around midday yesterday at a place called Hawina, between Tabto and Dobley.
« We were in a convoy of army vehicles when we were attacked, » said the official. « We were travelling to Dobley coming from Tabto (about 80km in between), » he added.
The official said that the TFG forces lost one man and a number were injured. He did not report any deaths on the Kenyan side.
He said a TFG pick-up truck was burnt by the Islamist militants. He claimed that the allied forces killed 10 Al-Shabaab fighters.
Some local sources said six people were killed in the ambush and subsequent exchange of fire.
By the time of going to press, KDF had not commented on the reports.
The fighting took place as Ethiopian forces joined Kenya in the operation aimed at crushing Al-Shabaab and restoring TFG authority in all regions.
In central Somalia, residents said they had seen Ethiopian troops, in convoys of armoured vehicles crossing the border in Balanbale district.
And in Mandera, which borders both Somalia and Ethiopia, residents said they saw a convoy of trucks and armoured vehicles pass through the town before entering Somalia.
It could not be immediately confirmed whether the Ethiopians were part of the African Union Mission in Somalia, Amisom, that comprise of Uganda and Burundi, or they had entered into a separate arrangement with Kenya.
Kenya has in the recent past been on a diplomatic offensive seeking support for the Somali operation against Al-Shabaab.
This is the second time Ethiopia is deploying troops in Somalia. In 2006, Addis Ababa, with the support of the US, helped to oust the Islamic Courts Union before withdrawing in 2009.
The militants have warned Ethiopia that they would « break the necks » of their troops inside Somalia.
« Soldiers of our enemy, the black colonialists of Ethiopia, made some movements into our region on Saturday, but they do not scare us, » said Sheikh Yusuf Ali Ugas, the insurgent group’s commander for the Hiran region.
« We will break the necks of the invaders… Our troops are ready for anything, if the Ethiopian enemy tries to attack us, » Ugas added, speaking on the group’s radio Al Andalus.
In Mogadishu, Lt-Col Paddy Ankunda, the spokesman of the peacekeepers serving with Amisom, told the local media that attempts by Al-Shabaab to recapture Mogadishu were repelled.
On Wednesday, Presidents Kibaki, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed (Somalia) and Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) held a closed-door meeting in Nairobi and reaffirmed their commitment to military operations against Al-Shabaab in Somalia.
The three Presidents, in a joint communique after the meeting, expressed confidence that the joint Kenya-TFG operation presents the region with a historic opportunity to restore stability and security in Somalia.
At the United Nations, Kenya asked the Security Council to help consolidate and extend the campaign to neutralise Al-Shabaab in southern Somalia.
Ambassador Macharia Kamau proposed that the council facilitates deployment of African Union (Amisom) troops in areas wrestled from Al-Shabaab’s control.
Since the government launched the operation, Al-Shaabab has been forced out of many towns in southern Somalia.
Inside Kenya, gunmen believed to be Somali pirates staged a daring night attack on a fishing village near Malindi and abducted six fishermen.
The raiders, who struck at Ngomeni village, 40 kilometres North East of Malindi town, were said to have used a boat loaded with grenades, guns and two special ladders for boarding ships.
The attack comes more than a month after Kenya sent troops inside Somalia to crush Al-Shabaab militants who have been accused of either carrying out abductions or protecting the pirates who do so.
Kenyan naval and land forces appear to have suppressed the operations of pirates particularly in southern Somalia.
Security agencies were immediately deployed to Ngomeni to pursue the pirates but the fact that the pirates were able to evade security and come that far down the coast has angered local leaders.
Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab issued a statement late Sunday evening claiming that their naval forces had stormed and burned Kenya military ships patrolling the waters along the Somali Coast, reports that were denied by Major Chirchir.
« We want to confirm that no Kenya navy warship was sunk or engaged by the Al-Shabaab in the Somali coast, » he said.
By Patrick Mayoyo and Abdulkadir Khalif