Friday, June 26, 2009

Kenya Army Ready For Attack Against Somalia Resistance Forces

June 25, 2009

Kenya Army Ready for Attack

Nairobi, Jun 25, 2009
The Nation/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX

Kenya's military is preparing to protect its borders and refugees seeking a safe haven in the country following threats by extremists in Somalia to attack Nairobi.

The extremists, who have been fighting the Somalia government, have threatened to attack if Kenya sends its army to support the beleaguered transitional government. But the Kenyan military has been on high alert to prevent and -- if need be -- respond to any foreign attack.

At the same time, MPs on Thursday asked the government to close the border with Somalia and stop the movement of people from the war-torn Horn of Africa nation into Kenya.

The Parliamentary Committee on National Security described the threats by extremists as serious. "The threats require drastic action from the government," said committee chairman Fred Kapondi, who is also the MP for Mt Elgon.

Mr Kapondi said people flocking into the country from Somalia posed a major security threat and should be blocked from entering Kenya. He said his committee and that of Foreign Affairs and Defence would jointly petition the government to take drastic action to protect its borders.

The Islamic militants, backed by foreign al-Qaeda fighters have been battling to topple the embattled government of President Sheikh Sharrif. Fifteen Somali MPs have so far fled to Kenya and their government has declared a state of emergency and called for urgent military support from the international community, including its neighbours.

Unconfirmed reports said a "Zulu alert" has been declared in some military installations. The alert means the county is in danger of attack and requires soldiers to be ready for action. There were also reports that some bases had cancelled leave and off days for their soldiers.

One soldier told the Nation that the Chief of General Staff, General Jeremiah Kianga, addressed soldiers at Moi Airbase, Nairobi, shortly before he left for Rwanda and informed them of the new leave orders.

On Thursday, there were reports in Garissa that al-Shabaab, the main militant group in Somalia, had threatened to blow up a crucial bridge that links northern Kenya with the rest of the country to prevent deployment of troops.

A special police rapid response unit has since been sent to guard the bridge. All vehicles and passengers are being thoroughly searched. "Our security is on high alert," government spokesman Alfred Mutua said during the weekly briefing in Nairobi on Thursday. "Kenya will protect its citizens and the refugees near the border will be given the necessary comfort."The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad), which is chaired by President Kibaki, is expected to meet on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Sirte, Libya, on Monday. Igad has taken a hard line on the extremists and Eritrea, which is supporting them. Eritrea is mainly looking for a new theatre for its hostilities with Ethiopia, which in 2006 routed the Somalia Islamists. The two countries are technically in a state of war.

An Igad meeting of ministers towards the end of May petitioned the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against Eritrea, which is a member of Igad. Eritrea has denied US President Barrack Obama a visa, though the administration is willing to engage the African state in dialogue.

In North Eastern Province, which borders Somalia, security forces were working to thwart possible infiltrations and cross-border movements by Islamist fighters. Most police stations and police posts across the barren frontier had been reinforced, according to police sources.

Police checks along the Mandera-Nairobi road have also been tightened. "We are carrying out strict security measures as we are on alert following what is goings-on in Somalia," Wajir police boss Julius Kitili said. "We have intensified and tightened patrols."There are fewer Somalis crossing the border illegally into Wajir as a result of the tighter controls. "We are now arresting an average of three Somalis a day. They are mostly arraigned in court and repatriated to their country," said Mr Kitili.

The Kenya Army has also increased its presence on the border, strangling the smuggling of sugar and other commodities from Somalia into Kenya.

Further down the border, the flow of refugees into camps has increased. According to the UNHCR, an estimated 200 refugees are crossing into Kenya every day. There are 275,000 Somali refugees in Kenya.

Meanwhile, Washington has sent weapons to the Somalia government after the go-ahead from the UN Security Council, sources told Reuters. When a moderate Islamist was elected president in January, there was hope he could end nearly two decades of bloodshed in Somalia by reconciling with hardliners who want to impose a strict version of Islamic law across Somalia.

But Osama bin Laden declared President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed an enemy in an audio tape released in March. He called on the insurgents to topple the government.

The Washington Post on Thursday said arms and ammunition had been sent to the Somalia government in a move signalling that President Obama's administration wanted to thwart the hardliners. "It's confirmed. They received approval from the UN Security Council," an international security source said.

While there is a UN arms embargo on Somalia, the source said the Security Council had agreed to a waiver procedure for the new weapons and ammunition.

Another foreign security source said arms had come into Somalia for the government via Uganda, which provides half the 4,300 African Union troops protecting key sites in Mogadishu.

Reported by Dominic Wabala, Kenneth Ogosia, Oliver Mathenge, Abdullahi Jama and Reuters

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