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Kenyan troops eye next Somali town

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 19 – Kenyan military troops continued an offensive on Al Shabaab militants Wednesday on the fourth day inside Somalia where they said they have so far killed 73 militants.

Military Spokesman Maj Emmanuel Chirchir said there had been no casualties on the Kenyan troops other than the five soldiers who were killed when their aircraft crashed at the Liboi border on Sunday.

“Our forces have so far killed 73 Al Shabaab since the operation started,” he said on telephone. There have been no casualties on our side.”

Since the operation started, Maj Chirchir said they had seized Dhobley, Qoqani and now Afmadow where the offensive was concentrated since Tuesday.

“Our forces are in good shape to fight this battle to the end,” Major Chirchir told AFP on the fourth day since Kenya declared war on Al Shabaab militia and confirmed it had sent its army across the border.

Kenyan troops reinforced positions in southern Somalia in preparation for fresh assaults against the Al-Qaeda linked Islamist militia deep into the war torn country. The military said it had traversed 120 kilometers from the common border with Somalia in the lower Juba region.

The main forward base of Kenyan operations is at Qoqani, some 100 kilometres (60 miles) as they prepare to push forward to seize Afmadow, which Somali government forces are fighting to secure.

“Elements of them (Somali government forces) are in Afmadow, and we are working hand-in-hand with them, gathering information and intelligence,” Chirchir added.

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Heavy air strikes are reported to have been hitting Al Shabaab positions in efforts to dislodge the militants, before Kenyan-backed Somali government ground troops move in to drive out rebels, according to witnesses.

“Our aircraft are involved in the operations,” Chirchir said, adding that Kenya was “cooperating” with Somali government forces and aligned militia forces.

Pro-government gunmen from the Ras Kamboni militia group have also been fighting against Al Shabaab who have openly warned of reprisal attacks “in all fronts” in Kenya.

Kenya in turn announced it had adequately secured its borders and was working on heightening security arrangements in the capital Nairobi which Al Shabaab have warned is their main target.

Internal Security Assistant Minister Orwa Ojode announced Wednesday that the Kenyan government was adequately prepared to secure its country against foreign militias “any other form of criminal elements.”

“The police will carry out major security operations targeting Al Shabaab and any other criminal elements,” Ojode told Parliament.

The assault came after Kenya’s Internal Security Minister George Saitoti vowed to attack the Al Shabaab “wherever they will be.”

In the past five weeks a British woman and a French woman have been abducted from beach resorts in two separate incidents, dealing a major blow to Kenya’s tourism industry.

French authorities announced on Wednesday that the wheelchair-bound Frenchwoman Marie Dedieu, 66, had died in the hands of her captors.

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