, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 24 – The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) has reiterated that it is not targeting civilians as it continues to pursue Al Shabaab terrorists in Somalia.
Military spokesman Col Cyrus Oguna declared on Saturday that they are adhering to the international humanitarian law through strictly ensuring that no civilians are directly targeted in the attacks.
“We operate within the rules of engagement; we respect the laws of armed conflict and we stick by them. We are a professional organisation that respects the sanctity of life,” he stressed.
During his weekly security briefing, Col Oguna said their concern for the civilians is actually what has slowed them down as they have had to cancel some operations in areas where innocent Somalis are present.
“We have been very careful with how we engage those objectives and the process that they take before any target is taken out,” he said.
“If we were just operating without care, by this time we would be in Mogadishu,” he added.
Some Non governmental organisations have in the past heaped blame on the Kenyan troops saying they were indiscriminately killing civilians.
While vehemently denying the accusation, Col Oguna however admitted that their mission was being hampered by the ability of the terror gang to mutate.
“This however does not make a legitimate Al Shabaab target to become a civilian target,” he said while calling on such organisations, the media and the general public to seek the correct information from KDF before believe such information which he was quick to add was been circulated by the militia men as part of their propaganda.
To counter this, the spokesman said they were willingly providing information of the ‘Operation Linda Nchi’ with the number of casualties for instance being freely available.
For instance, he revealed that as the operation entered its ninth week, KDF has so far lost five soldiers to enemy fire; five had died in a helicopter crash; 12 had been injured while one Navy Officer was missing at sea.
Despite these challenges however, he reiterated that there will be no let up in their pursuit of the Al Shabaab as they seek to liberate Somalia while at the same time ensuring the safety of Kenyans.
Meanwhile, Col Oguna disclosed that discussions on how to integrate the Defence Forces into African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)-as part of a bigger strategy to combat Al- Shabaab- were still ongoing.
“Joining AMISOM is a process that has got several stages. Discussions are currently taking place but when they are concluded, we will be able to give details of the outcome,” he said adding that they entail how the command structure will be.
He was however categorical that joining the body would not weaken KDF but instead strengthen their mission which will not be in peacekeeping but peace enforcement.