Kenya troops fight Somali militants

Kenyan forces and Somali militants waged their first ground battle and Kenya's government said its troops killed nine militants. Kenya admitted it planned for several months before sending its forces into Somalia this month to fight al-Shabab insurgents.

In Somalia, an al-Shabab leader again told militant followers to carry out reprisal attacks inside Kenya.

Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua seemed to contradict earlier government assertions that the incursion was prompted by kidnappings of foreigners inside Kenya by Somali gunmen. Mutua said the goal of the Kenyan military operation is to destroy al-Shabab, an al-Qa'ida-linked militant group, within the shortest time possible.

"Kenya has no plans or intentions to stay in Somalia an hour beyond necessary. Once our object is met ... Kenyan troops will withdraw and leave the security operation to the African Union troops and the (Somali government) troops," Mutua said.

Mutua said al-Shabab was a threat to Kenya's security and economy and made peace and stability in Somalia impossible.

"Al-Shabab presents a clear and present danger to the security of the world and especially of the East Africa region," Mutua said.

Kenya's defense ministry, meanwhile, said its forces carried out an air attack early Thursday in the town of Anole on what it said was an al-Shabab logistics hub and training camp. Just before noon Kenyan troops were attacked by an estimated 45 al-Shabab fighters in what the first engagement between the two sides. Nine al-Shabab fighters were killed, Kenya said. Two Kenyan troops were wounded.

Kenya said it captured the town of Busar and that troops are moving toward Burahache though heavy rains are impeding military movements.

In Somalia, Sheik Muktar Robow, one of al-Shabab's top leaders, said Thursday that he is telling militants in Kenya "trained by Osama" — an apparent reference to Osama bin Laden — to bomb Kenya.

"A hand grenade is nothing. We want you to carry out big painful blows to Kenya," he said. "We heard they want to shut Kismayo's port, so if they do, go and attack their banks and forcibly take your Kismayo earnings from their banks. ... The only option we have is to inflict big blows to Kenya."

Mutua said that US government and other Western nations are not assisting Kenyan military operation in Somalia.

Analysts said previously that the planning of the operation could not have happened as quickly as the government earlier seemed to claim.

Kenya sent hundreds of troops into Somalia nearly two weeks ago to pursue al-Shabab, whom Kenya has blamed for the kidnappings of four Europeans.

The announcement of the military action came two days after two Spanish aid workers were kidnapped at the Dadaab refugee camp. Earlier, a British woman and French woman were kidnapped in two separate attacks. The French woman — a quadriplegic — later died in captivity.

Al-Shabab has threatened reprisal attacks in Kenya for its military incursion. Kenya was hit by two separate grenade attacks on Monday that killed one person and injured more than 20 people.

A 28-year-old Kenyan man arrested for the grenade attacks said in court Wednesday that he is a member of al-Shabab and took part in the attacks.


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