NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 18 – Military spokesman Cyrus Oguna on Saturday revealed that Kenya had lost 10 soldiers, since its incursion into Somalia, four months ago.
Oguna told journalists that the military operation against Al Shabaab militants inside the war-torn nation has left 10 other soldiers hospitalised and two kidnapped, while another is listed as missing at sea.
He disclosed that the latest Kenyan casualty died during engagement with the militia on February 15, about 16 kilometers South East of Doble in Somalia, when Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) encountered four members of the Al Shabaab.
“The four Al Shabaab members were neutralised but unfortunately we lost one soldier and we would like to pay tribute to him because he put his life on the line to save the others. He took a bullet that could have hit his colleague,” explained Oguna.
“This soldier is a hero to us as KDF and also to the 38 million Kenyans that he died for,” he added.
He further revealed that two government officials and other Kenyan civilians had also been kidnapped by the Al Shabaab adding that the military was still in the process of setting up a rescue operation.
He said that the military knew the exact location of those who had been kidnapped but had to review the situation with the help of local religious leaders, before going in.
“Efforts have been initiated by the government to ensure that there are discussions going on and that those who have been abducted are released and brought back home safely. But we are not discussing with the Al Shabaab because they are a criminal gang,” he stressed.
Oguna added that there were no immediate plans of advancing to Kismayu arguing that the area’s insecurity would not give the Kenyan forces any tactical advantage.
He instead stressed the need for destroying the militia’s support elements including their source of income, command bases and their infrastructure.
“What the soldiers have been doing and must continue doing is to make sure that it is stable is to carry out pacification. The pacification here is tedious, time consuming and is also very dangerous so it would not give us any advantage,” he argued.
He also said that the KDF had so far claimed 95,000 square kilometers of Al Shabaab-controlled areas since the incursion.
“What that means is that the revenue which the Al Shabaab had been collecting from these areas has been disrupted,” he observed.
The military spokesman also maintained that Kenya had no immediate intention of leaving Somalia and would only do so after restoring security in the region.
The second counselor from the ministry of Foreign Affairs Anthony Safari reiterated the position adding that the upcoming London conference would help chart the way forward in terms of stabilising Somalia.
“No decision has been arrived at and we are hoping that a positive decision will be arrived at the level of the United Nations Security Council. Kenya is still engaging the international actors in terms of expediting the resolution,” said Safari.
He further expressed hope that some of the Somalis who had sought safe haven in Dadaab would go back home to ease pressure on the refugee camps, in view of the Kenya-Somali incursion.
“Dadaab and Ifo Camps are overflowing with refugees going up to 600,000 and we believe that if there is voluntary repatriation back into the liberated areas, especially in the southern area, this will ease the pressure,” he said.
Police Spokesman Eric Kiraithe added that the increasing numbers of refugees in the camps was partly due to the number of illegal immigrants, who had been arrested in various parts of the country.