Saturday, November 05, 2011

Kenyan Military Escalates Attacks in Somalia; Eritrea Threatened While Al-Shabaab Mounts Fierce Resistance

November 05, 2011

Kenyan Navy Sinks Suspected Al-Shabab Boat

Kenyan military officials say their navy has sunk another boat carrying suspected al-Shabab militants.

A Navy spokesman says Kenyan forces fired on the boat in the area Ras Kamboni on Friday, after the vessel refused to stop for identification as it sped toward Kenyan waters.

Kenya has not confirmed the number of casualties.

Earlier this week, Kenyan Major Emmanuel Chirchir posted a video link on his Twitter page that he says shows the Kenyan Navy sinking a vessel with 18 al-Shabab fighters.

He said all the militants were killed in the attack. The video's authenticity could not be confirmed.

Chirchir said Kenyan troops are poised to sweep across 10 towns in southern Somalia in pursuit of al-Shabab. The militant group has summoned reinforcements from other parts of the country.

The Kenyan military launched an offensive in Somali three weeks ago aimed at militants. The government has accused al-Shabab militants of crossing into Kenyan territory from Somalia and kidnapping several foreigners.

Al-Shabab has been fighting since 2008 to topple the Somali government. The group was recently left the capital, Mogadishu, but still controls large sections of southern and central Somalia.

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Kenya raises concerns Eritrea arming Somalia’s al-Shabab insurgency with secret flights

By Associated Press, Published: November 4

NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya’s foreign minister summoned Eritrea’s ambassador on Friday and “raised concern” over the possibility that planes from Eritrea are supplying weapons to Somali militants whom Kenyan forces are battling in southern Somalia.

Moses Wetangula said if that is the case, Kenya has “a series of options” to deal with the situation. He did not say what those options include.

“I raised concern about intelligence that we have and information available that there is a possibility that arms supplies are flowing from his country to al-Shabab,” Wetangula said.

“Make no mistake, Kenya will do everything possible to make sure, one, that if it’s in our capacity, supplies to al-Shabab must be stopped,” he said.

Eritrea denied this week that it is arming fighters in Somalia, and Eritrea’s foreign minister is expected in Kenya shortly.

Kenya has said it believes three planes flew into southern Somalia over the last week with weapons meant for al-Shabab fighters. The military spokesman said Thursday that the military would shoot down or bomb on the ground any unidentified planes it believes to be supplying the al-Qaida-linked militants.

A July report by the U.N.’s Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea said that al-Shabab controls two large airports and one former military airport with asphalt runways. The report also said that illicit flights with weapons or fighters for Somali militants could be originating from Eritrea, Yemen or the United Arab Emirates.

The U.N. report said Eritrea consistently denies providing military support to armed groups in Somalia, but that “new information ... not only confirms many previous allegations of Eritrean military involvement, but also offers firm grounds to believe that Eritrea still retains active linkages to Somali armed groups.”

Hundreds of Kenyan troops moved into southern Somalia last month after a spate of kidnappings by armed Somalis, though officials said the military incursion had been planned for months. Militants now face fighting on two fronts — from Kenyan forces in the south, and from Ugandan and Burundian troops in the Somali capital.

Al-Shabab has threatened to launch terrorist attacks in Nairobi in retaliation for the attacks by Kenyan troops.

Meanwhile, officials on Kenya’s coast indicated that Kenya’s Navy shot and killed seven men at sea, though three survived the attack. Relatives said the boat was full of innocent fishermen, though the military said the boat was full of insurgents.

Kenyan military spokesman Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir said the boat was told to stop for an identification check “but continued to approach the Kenyan Navy at high speed.” He said that some of the militants may have swam to shore and he asked the public to report anyone seeking medical treatment for bullet wounds.

A local government official, Richard Karani, said he was aware of the incident. He said three people from the boat had been arrested and the whereabouts of the other seven were still unknown.

A relative of one of the fishermen on the targeted boat, Said Abdulrahman, said the boat was attacked despite the fact the fishermen had alerted authorities of their whereabouts.

Chirchir also said the military believes foreign fighters inside al-Shabab have regrouped in the towns of Barawe and Marka and will try to flee to Yemen. He warned merchant ships against transporting fighters.

2 November 2011
Last updated at 05:45 ET

Somali al-Shabab militants attack Kenyan army convoy

Somalia's transitional government has said its forces, backed by Kenyan troops, have repulsed an attack by Islamist al-Shabab insurgents.

A Somali military spokesman told the BBC they killed 36 insurgents in a counter-attack in the south.

But an al-Shabab commander said the militia had destroyed Kenyan military trucks and inflicted heavy casualties.

Kenya's military, which sent troops into Somalia last month, has warned 10 towns of imminent attacks via Twitter.

Kenya blames al-Shabab militants for a spate of kidnappings on Kenyan soil.

But the al-Qaeada-linked group, which is in control of most of southern Somalia, denies the allegations.

Weapon delivery

An al-Shabab regional commander Sheik Mohamed Ibrahim said a Kenyan military convoy had been ambushed on the road from the border town of Liboi to Kenyan forward troop positions inside Somalia.

"The mujahideen fighters destroyed several of the military trucks in the convoy," Mr Ibrahim said.

Kenya's military spokesman, Maj Emmanuel Chirchir, confirmed that there had been a firefight between Kenyan forces and four suspected al-Shabab militants.

He said the convoy had challenged the gunmen to stop walking, at which point they opened fire.

Maj Chirchir also warned the residents of 10 towns in Somalia via Twitter of "imminent" air raids.

He later clarified to the BBC that bases of the al-Shabab militia were outside those towns, and that these camps would be their target - adding it was difficult to fit all the information into the 140 characters allowed in a Twitter message.

"We are saying that people should be careful in not mixing up with al-Shabab. That is our message," the major said.

He said Kenya was tracking two consignments of weapons destined for al-Shabab that had been flown into Somalia in the past two days, and would strike any rebel bases where the arms were delivered.

Nine towns were listed in one of his tweets: Baidoa, Bardhere, Dinsor, Afgoye, Buale, Barawe, Jilib, Kismayo and Afmadow.

He said it was an operational decision and the attacks would begin "any time" from Wednesday.

His warning follows controversy over the aerial bombardment of Jilib on Sunday in which he says a Kenya fighter jet hit al-Shabab positions, killing 10 militia fighters.

But the medical charity MSF-Holland said at least five people, including three children, died after a camp for internally displaced people was bombed.

People abducted from Kenya since September include a French woman suffering from cancer, who French authorities say has since died, a British woman taken from a coastal resort, whose husband was killed in the raid, and a Kenyan driver and two Spanish aid workers seized from the Dadaab refugee camp near the Kenya-Somalia border.

After two decades of civil conflict, Somalia is awash with guns and analysts say any number of groups could have carried out the kidnappings - including pirate gangs.

Al-Shabab is locked in a battle with the weak UN-back interim government for control of the parts of the country which are currently outside its power, particularly the capital, Mogadishu.

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