In an interview with BBC’s Focus on Africa, the minister said he was confident the Kenyan military would succeed in its mission in Somalia “because we have the capacity.”
He said Kenya would not be cowed by threats issued by the Al Qaeda-inspired militant group which has vowed to engage the Kenyan military on a full scale war as well as hit main targets in the capital, Nairobi.
“Let them try… Kenya has the capacity, ability, and the will to defend its people and its territory. Let them try; the consequences will be dire for anyone who thinks that they can now walk in and out of Kenya to lay mischief with impunity,” he said in the BBC interview aired on Monday.
Wetangula said Kenya was well equipped to deal with any incursion on its territory, and would not be cowed by the threats issued the Islamist rebels.
“I don’t think Al Shabaab have the capacity to engage Kenya in an open-ended conflict, I don’t think so at all,” he said and sought to assure “our intention is to have a secure frontier with Somalia.”
“The end will justify the means,” he boasted, in reference to the military offensive in Somalia.
Kenyan military forces crossed the border into Somalia on Sunday to drive off the Islamist militants from the regions they control near the Kenyan side.
Major Emmanuel Chirchir who is coordinating communication on the military offensive told Capital News that Kenyan forces were moving further into Somalia on Tuesday to seize a third rebel-held town.
He said forces were expected to take full control of Afmadow region, some 120 kilometres from the Kenyan side after seizing Qoqani region on Monday. They have already driven the rag-tag militia from Dhobley town.
Dozens of Al Shabaab militants had been gathering around Afmadow region since Monday and were expected to be driven off by the Kenyan military backed by troops of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia.
“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.
Other than the Sunday helicopter crash in Liboi which killed five Kenyan soldiers [link to helicopter story], he said no other casualty had been reported in the operation.
“The Kenya government is taking robust measures to protect and preserve the integrity of the country,” Defence Minister Yusuf Haji said Monday, dubbing the invasion Operation Linda Nchi – or “Defend the country.”
Haji has vowed that Kenyan military forces would 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.
On Thursday, two Spanish aid workers were seized by gunmen from Kenya’s crowded Dadaab refugee camp.