Kenya plans fresh assault in Somalia after hostage dies

 

Kenya is poised to launch an assault on the port city stronghold of Islamic militants the Shabab in a major escalation of its involvement in Somalia's protracted civil war.

Kenyan forces who crossed into their northern neighbour on Sunday aim to cut off the main commercial base for the Islamists who it blames for a spate of kidnappings inside Kenya.

The move comes as French authorities announced the presumed death of Marie Dedieu, an elderly wheelchair-bound woman suffering from cancer and heart problems, who was abducted from a Kenyan holiday island by Somali gunmen last month. France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said that sources negotiating for the 66 year old's release had been informed of her death yesterday: "Seizing a woman in this state is an act of barbarity and absolutely unspeakable violence," he said.

Kenya's military campaign against the Shabab, which is backed privately by Somalia's UN-recognised transitional government, has raised fears over the fate of three surviving foreign hostages taken in the last two months.

Security sources in Nairobi said that two Spanish women, working for the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontiere

(MSF), had been seen in Somali villages en route to Kismayo, some 240km from the border with Kenya. But officials from MSF said they have no verifiable information about the whereabouts of the two logistics workers who were kidnapped while working at the Dadaab refugee complex in northern Kenya.

Jose Antonio Bastos, head of MSF Spain said: “We want to strongly distance ourselves from any military or other armed activities, declarations or presumptions of responsibility related to this case.”

British hostage Judith Tebbutt, who was abducted in a September attack in which her husband was murdered, is believed to be being held further north in Somalia

Kenya's advance into Somalia has taken their forces to the outskirts of Afmadow, 160km from the border. "We killed the 73 rebels during our artillery bombardment operations and so far the military has secured three towns... no casualties were reported on the Kenyan side," said a Kenyan military spokesman.

Torrential rains have churned the semi-desert of Somalia's southern Jubaland province into mud, slowing tanks and trucks from Kenya. Nonetheless military analysts expected Kismayo to fall in the next week as soldiers face a militant force that's not equipped to fight a conventional army.

Fighting alongside the Kenyans are at least two Somali armed factions who had been receiving covert arms, funding and training from Nairobi.

The high profile spree of abductions, which have hit Kenya's tourism trade, forced it to abandon the proxy war against Shabab – which had made little progress in securing the border areas - and launch a conventional attack across the border.

A similar advance five years ago by Ethiopian forces resulted in the swift capture of Mogadishu followed by a bloody occupation and the rise of the Shabab as an effective insurgency. Ethiopia has since withdrawn its forces and returned to funding armed factions fighting the Shabab in central Somalia.

A security source in Nairobi questioned whether Kenya had enough resources for the “long haul” of an occupation of Kismayo – the second most important port in the country after the capital. That would remove one of the Shabab's main financial pillars soon after they were forced to withdraw from Mogadishu where they've been fighting African Union forces protecting the transitional government. A shadow administration, made up of Somali exiles, has been trained in Kenya to take over the running of Kismayo and diplomats in Nairobi expect an expanded African Union force to replace Kenyan forces if they can succeed in taking the port city.

The continuing threat posed by the Shabab was underlined on Tuesday when a visiting Kenyan government delegation narrowly escaped a suicide bomb attack which was visiting the Somali capital.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
News
news
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Tutor required for Level 3 Workskills

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Eduction are...

Primary Supply Teacher - Loughborough

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Teacher looking fo...

Primary General Cover Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Newly Qualified Teacher lo...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week