, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 1 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga says any civilian deaths as a result of Kenya’s military operation in Somalia “will be thoroughly investigated.”
Odinga was categorical that troops sent into Somalia were only targeting Al Shabaab militants and not innocent civilians.
“If there is any death that has occurred as a result of the military operation, it will be investigated thoroughly,” he said, in an apparent reference to Sunday’s jet bombings at Jilib region where Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) claimed three civilians had been killed.
“It is not our intention to kill innocent civilians,” the Prime Minister told journalists after a meeting with European Union representatives.
The meeting was called to brief them on the military incursion in the war torn country where Kenyan troops are hunting down Al Shabaab militants accused of abducting four European women from Kenya.
“Any deaths of innocent civilians cannot have been intentional because we are hunting Al Shabaab militants,” he announced.
Odinga told journalists the pledge to investigate unwarranted deaths caused by Kenyan troops was among the key issues that he and Somalia Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohammed Ali briefed the diplomats about.
On Monday, military spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir denied reports by Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) that a Kenya air force jet had bombed an IDP camp in Jilib region, killing three civilians and wounding 52 women and children.
A statement from the Department of Defence in Nairobi said: “The incident at the IDP camp developed following enemy actions in the area. Upon the aerial attack an Al Shabaab driver drove off a technical battle wagon mounted with a ZSU 2-3 anti aircraft gun, towards the IDP camp. The wagon was on fire and laden with explosives, it exploded while at the camp causing the reported deaths and injuries.”
Chirchir said the Kenyan military was “reaching out to the MSF personnel on the ground to ascertain this turn of events.”
“They reported of an aerial bombardment at an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp killing 3 and injuring 52 women and children,” he said, denying Kenya’s troops involvement in the deaths.
Chirchir said the military had only killed 10 Al Shabaab militants, including a top commander and wounded 47 others.
Kenya’s troops have pitched camp in Southern Somalia where they are hunting down Al Shabaab militants accused of destabilising the East African nation’s economic stability through insecurity incidents such as recent kidnappings of four European women.
These include the kidnapping of Frenchwoman Marie Dedieu who was seized last month from her beachfront house in Lamu and later died in captivity in Somalia.
Other women still in captivity in the war torn country include a Briton also seized from Lamu last month during an incident where her husband was shot dead.
Two Spaniards working with MSF who were kidnapped from Dadaab refugee camp in Northern Kenya are also in Somalia.
The Kenyan troops crossed the border into the lawless country two weeks ago and have been advancing deeper, vowing to free more regions of Al Shabaab militants.
Military chief Julius Karangi has vowed his troops will only leave Somalia “when we are satisfied that our country is safe.”
On Monday, Somalia’s fragile Transitional Federal Government sent its Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali to hold talks with his Kenyan counterpart Raila Odinga to reiterate their support to the military incursion.
“Al Shabaab is not a Somali phenomenon; it is not a regional problem… it is a global problem so it is incumbent upon us the international community to face this threat and to make sure that it should be eliminated from the face of the earth,” Ali told journalists after the Monday meeting.
“We had a good discussion with the Prime Minister and other members of the Kenyan government to work together and as he said we shall share intelligence and to make sure that we are walking together,” he added and declared Al Shabaab a common enemy. “They are a threat to the safety and security of both countries therefore it is necessary for us to have a common strategy against a common enemy.”
Odinga on his part said: “We will make sure that peace and normalcy is back in Somalia. We will like to have Somalia in future join the East African Community.”
The two Prime Ministers later issued a joint communiqué calling for the intervention of The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) in taming the Al Shabaab menace.
“TFG will seek ICC assistance in beginning immediate probe into crimes against humanity committed by members of Al Shabaab movement with the aim of seeking indictment as soon as possible,” the joint communiqué read out by Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Richard Onyonka said.