NAIROBI, Kenya Nov 2 – Kenya made fresh allegations on Wednesday that Al Shabaab insurgents were receiving planeloads of arms, but vowed that troops hunting them would launch a major offensive at key target points in the outskirts of Kismayu.,
Kenya’s Military Spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir said they were privy to credible information that a third planeload of armaments had landed in Baidoa on Wednesday, a day after two planes delivered similar consignments for the Al Qaeda-linked militia.
In an exclusive interview with Capital News on Wednesday, the army spokesman said “our troops will not be cowed at all by these deliveries of arms, we are well prepared.”
“This [Wednesday] morning we have heard positive confirmation that there was another landing of another aircraft with weapons. This was delivered in areas around Baidoa. We are aware two other planes landed there yesterday,” the army spokesman said, vowing that their troops “are well equipped and will continue pushing forward.”
He said Kenya was keenly tracing the armaments delivered to Al Shabaab militants as part of Kenya’s strategy to “weaken the enemy.”
He would not give the strength of their troops only saying, “we have all it takes and what is required in the battlefield, we will hit the targets as planned.”
Asked to state the possible source of the armament supplies to Al Shabaab fighters, Chirchir said “at this point we are concentrating on how to disarm the enemy.”
Eritrea has been accused of supplying arms by air and sea to the Al Qaeda-linked fighters, but Asmara has repeatedly denied the claims.
On Tuesday, the defence headquarters in Nairobi warned residents in 10 Al Shabaab-controlled regions South of Somalia to beware of a major assault planned by its troops who were advancing towards the port of Kismayu.
Chirchir said Baidoa, Baadheere, Baydhabo, Dinsur and Afgooye were among the areas Kenyan troops intended to hit as they head to the Al Shabaab-controlled port which is their major source of revenue and contraband.
Regions of Bwale, Barawe and Jilib also remain under imminent attack of Kenyan troops.
“In line with the Kenya Defence Forces strategy of diminishing Al Shabaab effectiveness and weapon use, the aforementioned towns will remain under imminent attack. Residents in the towns are advised to avoid contact with Al Shabaab militia,” Chirchir warned.
He also posted a message on his personal Twitter page saying: “The Kenya Defence Forces urge anyone with relatives and friends in the 10 towns to advise them accordingly.”
He did not give the specific hour or day the troops plan to hit Kismayu which is their main target.
The army spokesman said their troops will continue tracking the arms and warned residents to avoid contact with Al Shabaab militants or their camps.
“It is a warning we have issued because we intend to hit these targets, these are places we know there are Al Shabaab and it is the same areas where the arms have been dropped, we will continue tracking them,” he said.
Chirchir further confirmed that Al Shabaab fighters had attacked a Kenyan convoy inside southern Somalia late Tuesday but denied claims the rebels had caused heavy Kenyan casualties and destroyed military trucks.
“Our troops were headed to Tabda from Liboi and they confronted four armed Al-Shabaab militants near the border area,” he said. “There was an exchange of fire and the insurgents ran towards a forest, it was dark and our commander on the ground advised against venturing there because it could be a trap.”
He has dismissed as far-fetched claims by international analysts quoted by some wire agencies claiming that Kenya’s troops were bound to fail due to fatigue of its forces “who have little experience on war.”
“You have already seen some successes although it is very difficult to quantify success but in terms of stabilising areas, we have seen of course the Somali people going back to their normal activities in liberated areas. That is one area that I can put a success measure on,” he said.
He cited the low level of hostility in parts of the border areas previously controlled by Al Shabaab fighters as another measure of success on the part of Kenyan troops.
“I will call that a level of success, we have seen the international community get interest in Somalia right now. I can call that success, but in terms of the total picture, we are headed to the right direction.”
Kenya’s military chief Julius Karangi has vowed his forces will only pull out of Somalia “when the Kenyan government and the people of this country feel they are safe enough.”