Kenya sends in troops to Somalia in pursuit of al-Shabaab militants

 

Kenya has declared war on a Somali Islamist group and its army yesterday crossed into southern Somalia to pursue al-Shabaab, which it blames for a series of kidnappings inside its territory.

Kenyan tanks, troops, trucks and air support were seen inside its northern neighbour a day after the country's Internal Security Minister labelled al-Shabaab "the enemy" vowed to set up a "buffer zone" north of its border. There were also reports of US drone attacks on suspected militant training camps in Ras Kamboni, a coastal forest near the border with Kenya.

The biggest military action in Kenya's recent history comes five years after Ethiopia invaded Somalia with US approval and air support – an action that ended in ignominious withdrawal and helped to create al-Shabaab in its current form.

Kenyan forces entered an area of southern Somalia where they have previously been supporting at least two Somali militia groups fighting al-Shabaab for territory. However, Nairobi appears to have decided that its proxy war across the border was not working and has sent an occupation force instead.

The move could have drastic consequences for famine relief efforts as Kenya said yesterday that no more Somali famine refugees would be allowed to cross into camps in northern Kenya. Aid workers and UN staff around the Somali town of Dhobley, which has been the staging post for efforts to feed hundreds of thousands of starving people, were expected to be evacuated today.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one senior aid official warned that the military operation "could backfire on humanitarian efforts".

Famine-blighted Somalia has been carved into warring enclaves over the past two decades and international attempts to deliver peace through backing individual factions have all ended in failure. "Ethiopia went in four years ago and made speedy progress to Mogadishu," said Roger Middleton, a regional analyst from the Chatham House think tank. "What they faced was an intense guerrilla war that drove them out and left behind a worse situation than before."

The military push follows the abduction in northern Kenya of four foreigners in the last two months by Somali gunmen. Al-Shabaab, which has lost territory during the Horn of Africa famine and is under pressure from African Union troops and rival militias in south and central Somalia, has not claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.

Al-Shabaab responded to Kenya's move yesterday by calling for a holy war: "Are you ready to live under Christians?" one al-Shabaab official shouted on a radio station in southern Somalia. "Get out of your homes and defend your dignity and religion. Today is the day to defend against the enemy."

The UN-backed transitional government, which controls the capital Mogadishu with the support of 9,000 African Union troops, said it was not consulted before Kenyan forces crossed the border.

"As a sovereign country we cannot condone any country crossing our border," Somalia's ambassador to Kenya, Mohamed Ali Nur, told The Independent yesterday. He also blamed al-Shabaab for the abductions but said that, while Kenya had the right to protect itself, it should do so within its own territory: "We will not allow any country to invade us."

East Africa's largest economy has been hit recently by the overflow from the crisis in its anarchic northern neighbour. The abductions of the British woman Judith Tebbutt and the French woman Marie Dedieu from holiday islands on the northern coast have affected tourism, which is an important foreign-currency earner.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory