Kenyan forces target third Al Shabaab town

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 18 – Kenyan military forces are poised to take control of a third Al Shabaab controlled town inside Somalia, on day three of an offensive that aims to crash the rag tag militia that has terrorised Somalia and recently started spreading its tentacles to Kenya.

By Tuesday morning, Defence headquarters in Nairobi said its forces were advancing some 120 kilometres deep inside Somalia to seize the rebel-held town of Afmadow.

“Our troops started moving to Afmadow last evening, this is where activities will be concentrated today [Tuesday],” Military Operations Information Officer Major Emmanuel Chirchir said.

Major Chirchir said dozens of Al Shabaab militants have been gathering around the town since Monday but no clash between them and Kenyan forces had been reported.

“So far, our mission is going on well, there have been no incidents reported at all since last night,” Major Chirchir told Capital News on telephone.

On Monday, heavily armed Kenyan forces were concentrating their offensive at Qoqani region, about 100 kilometres from the Kenyan side.

The Kenyan offensive has sparked protests from Al Shabaab who have warned of reprisals at the heart of the capital Nairobi.

“Kenya has peace, its cities have tall buildings and business is booming there, while Somalia is in chaos,” spokesman for the Al Shabaab Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage announced at a press conference in Somalia on Monday.

“If your government ignores our calls to stop its aggression on Somali soil, we will strike at the heart of your interests,” he was quoted by AFP as having said, in an apparent address to the Kenyan population.

Defence Minister Yusuf Haji has vowed that Kenyan military forces will not relent on their efforts to fight off the Somali militants who have been blamed for a series of abductions since 2009 and the latest of four European women seized from Lamu and Dadaab refugee camp.

In the past five weeks a British woman and a Frenchwoman have been abducted from beach resorts in two separate incidents.

Last Thursday, two Spanish aid workers were seized by gunmen from Kenya’s crowded Dadaab refugee camp.

“This is an attack and assault on our territory and we have every right to defend our territorial integrity,” the Minister said Monday, in reference to the recent kidnappings.

Although he said Kenya has every reason to believe that the kidnappings were carried out by Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda linked terror group has denied responsibility.

The last time Somalia was invaded by one of its neighbours was in late 2006 when Ethiopia started an occupation that lasted two years and spurred the formation of the Al Qaeda-inspired Shabaab insurgency.