NAIROBI, Kenya Oct 16 – Kenyan military has begun assembling troops at the border points in readiness for deployment to Somalia to pursue Al Shabaab attackers who are responsible for the kidnapping of four women of British, Spanish and French nationals.
An official at the military headquarters in Nairobi told Capital News that the forces will start entering Somalia in the coming days to flush out Al Shabaab militants who have wedged a war against Kenya.
“Our forces are assembling at the border points where they are getting briefs and other relevant instructions as they prepare to enter Somalia,” said the officer whom we cannot name because he fears being reprimanded for discussing security arrangements.
“They have been instructed to get ready for the assignment which will mainly include pushing the Al Shabaab rebels far away inside Somalia from the common border,” the source said.
Capital News has reliably established that truckloads of military forces from various battalions in the country have already left for Moyale, Kiunga, Mandera and Garissa.
Internal Security Minister Prof George Saitoti and his Defence Counterpart Yusuf Haji on Saturday announced that the government had invoked Article 51 of the UN Chapter that pronounces self defence as an inherent right and which is also in keeping with the Kenyan Constitution to defend its citizens.
“It is worth noting that the concept of self defence in international law goes hand in hand with prohibition of aggression,” Prof Saitoti said in reference to the recent kidnappings of four women.
“This cannot be left to continue at all and it means we are now going to pursue the enemy who are the Al Shabaab to wherever they will be even in their country. We are ready to take any necessary measure to protect our territorial integrity,” Prof Saitoti said at a press conference called to update Kenyans on the progress made so far in the search and rescue of two Spaniards kidnapped from Dadaab.
The two women who have since been identified as Montserrat Serra and Blanca Thiebaut worked for aid agency Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) and were being driven back to their base at the Ifo II extension camp when the gunmen struck and seized them, and later shot their driver, a Kenyan who was dumped in the forest as they sped off with the two women.
The driver has since been airlifted to the Nairobi Hospital where he is receiving treatment for neck injuries sustained in the attack.
The two security Ministers announced on Saturday that the government would no longer tolerate actions by Somali militant group Al Shabaab which they said amounts to an indication that the group intends “to undermine Kenya’s territorial integrity and national economy.”
“In light of this, the Kenyan government has decided to take robust measures to protect and preserve the integrity of the country and national economy and security. These measures will involve invoking Article 51 of the UN Chapter that pronounces self defence as an inherent right and which is also in keeping with the Kenyan Constitution,” their joint statement said.
“If you are attacked by an enemy you are allowed to pursue that enemy until where you get him. We will force them far away from our border,” Haji said.
Internal Security Permanent Secretary Francis Kimemia told Capital News separately that “it is the Al Shabaab who have declared war against us, we have subsequently done the same.”
Prof Saitoti said in the scheduled offensive into Somalia, the government hopes to rescue the Spaniards and two other women—a Briton and French—who were seized from Lamu in the past three weeks.
“”The latest is that the militants are still being pursued and they have not been traced. We have mobilised adequate security forces who still pursuing them and we hope to get those kidnapped back,” Prof Saitoti said.
The Defence Minister on his part said: “It seems like they abandoned the vehicle and they are walking in the forest back to their country because it is quite far from where they left the vehicle. Everything possible is being done to ensure those kidnapped are found.”
The latest kidnapping incidents have dealt a blow to the country’s key tourism sector which is among sectors that accounts for large foreign exchange.