, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 6 – Kenya has formally sanctioned a request by the African Union to have its troops join the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) to fight Al Shabaab militants.
A dispatch from State House Nairobi said a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Mwai Kibaki on Tuesday had approved to have a “re-hatting of the Kenya Defence Forces in Somalia to Amisom.”
“The Cabinet approved the re-hatting of the Kenya Defence Forces in Somalia to Amisom, subject to approval by Parliament,” the brief statement said adding “This has been done at the request of the African Union to enhance a combined strategy for the operation against Al-Shabaab.”
The African Union has previously asked various countries to send troops to Somalia to strengthen Amisom which has 9,700 Burundian and Ugandan troops deployed solely in the capital Mogadishu.
The AU has been seeking to increase the number to 20,000.
On Friday last week, the AU welcomed Ethiopia’s decision to send forces back into its neighbour. Several hundred Ethiopian troops were seen in the country last month although Addis Ababa denied they were there.
The regional security body formed by seven East African states largely controls and funds troops under Amisom.
Kenya sent its troops to fight off Al Shabaab militants inside Somalia in mid October and has since claimed considerable achievement, having killed several of the militants in security raids carried out jointly with the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces.
On Monday, five Al Shabaab militants were killed when Kenyan Navy forces sunk a boat during an attack in the Indian Ocean.
A statement from the military headquarters in Nairobi said the attack occurred at Kuday area, South of Somalia.
“Five Al Shabaab fighters aboard a boat fitted with weapons conducted a failed attack on the Kenya Navy warship along the coast of Kuday south of Kismayu. The Kenya Navy engaged the boat and sunk it,” Military Spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir said.
Forty other militants were killed on Saturday in an offensive carried out by the TFG forces in Hayo area. Some 11 TFG forces were also killed in the offensive that occurred at a government defensive position.
“Over 40 Al Shabaab died, 11 TFG forces were killed and 54 others wounded,” Chirchir said adding that 25 of the wounded soldiers were being treated in Nairobi and Garissa.
Chirchir said Kenya troops had bombed two Al Shabaab camps Monday within Afmadow area, killing an unknown number of insurgents. They also destroyed technical vehicles used by the terrorist group.
Kenya has so far lost four troops killed in action against Somalia’s Al Shabaab Islamist rebels while 10 had been hospitalised with wounds since it launched its incursion in mid-October.
Another four troops were killed in a helicopter crash on the first day of the intervention, according to statistics released on Saturday by Colonel Cyrus Oguna of the Department of Defence.
He was speaking after the Shabaab said on Friday they had launched an attack on a small village in southern Somalia, “killing many enemy soldiers, including Kenyan soldiers.”
The Somali government confirmed the fighting but denied the Shabaab claims, saying government troops had had the upper hand all along.
“We are witnessing less and less resistance from Al-Shabaab, and they are withdrawing deeper and deeper into central Somalia,” Oguna said, adding that “this operation is not time bound.”
Kenya’s Defence Minister Yusuf Haji denied on Friday that Nairobi’s forces were necessarily targeting the key port of Kismayu.
“All we said is that we were pushing Shabaab away from our boundary and securing our border, and we will go as far as we will go,” he said.
Nairobi sent troops and tanks into Somalia to fight the insurgents it accuses of a series of attacks on its soil, including the abduction of four foreign women.
They have been accompanied by forces allied to Somalia’s provisional government in some of their operations.