Somali invasion backed by West, says Kenya

Grenade attack on Nairobi nightclub blamed on backlash by Somali militants


Kenya has confirmed that Western allies have joined its war on Islamic militants al-Shabaab despite denials from the US and France that they are involved in fighting in southern Somalia. Foreign military forces have carried out air strikes and a naval bombardment close to the militant stronghold of Kismayo, a Kenyan army spokesman said yesterday.

“There are certainly other actors in this theatre carrying out other attacks,” said Kenya's Major Emmanuel Chirchir.

The Kenyan invasion has already caused a major rift between Somalia's interim prime minister and president, who yesterday condemned the presence of foreign troops inside his country. President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed described as “inappropriate and unacceptable” the Kenyan presence. Nairobi previously insisted that its offensive had the backing of Somalia's UN-recognised government. Sources close to the Somali prime minister said yesterday's condemnation by the president came as a “huge surprise” and would have “major implications” for the offensive against al-Shabaab.

Meanwhile fears of a backlash of terror attacks against Kenya were underlined by a blast at a nightclub in Nairobi in the early hours of yesterday morning, that seriously injured 12 people. The grenade attack was immediately linked by local police to al-Shabaab. It came only a day after the US embassy warned expats in the Kenyan capital of a “credible threat” of an imminent attack.

Wary of a repeat of its 1993 debacle in Mogadishu, the US has remained one step removed from the conflict in Somalia – paying for African Union troops to fight al-Shabaab and limiting itself to air strikes. Other Western allies have joined the naval effort against Somali pirates offshore but any direct involvement in Kenya's offensive against the al Qa'ida linked militants would represent a major shift.

Kenyan army spokesman Maj. Chirchir said that while he could not name the foreign forces assisting the offensive their identity was well known. “Everyone knows who is fighting the terrorists, they are the same partners who are always fighting al Qa'ida.”

Nairobi's Western allies insist they were not consulted over the East African nation's biggest military operation to date. The US has denied carrying out air strikes reported by local residents around the port city of Kismayo in the last week. Kenya said on Sunday that the French navy was bombarding al Qa'ida-linked militants from the sea but later backtracked on this after denials from Paris. France said it was helping to supply the Kenyan offensive but Col. Thierry Burkhard said there was “no French operation in Somalia.”

Kenyan forces crossed into southern Somalia nine days ago following a spate of abductions of foreigners that it blames on al-Shabaab. Despite initial claims that the mission was in pursuit of Islamic militants there are now concerns in Somalia's transitional government that Kenya intends to oust al-Shabaab and install its own puppet administration in a buffer zone in the south.

According to leaked diplomatic cables, Nairobi has been funnelling Chinese arms to a militia that aims to establish a breakaway state in the south calling itself Azania – an ancient Greek term for the Horn of Africa. The breakaway effort is led by a French-educated former Somali government minister Mohamed Abdi, who styles himself “Professor Gandhi”.

Somalia already has two northern breakaways in Somaliland and Puntland and the rest of the country is divided into an anarchic patchwork of warring enclaves – separated by a complex of clan and religious loyalties. The UN-backed government, which is largely drawn from a single civil war faction - controls only the capital where it is propped up by 9,000 African Union troops. Al-Shabaab has retreated from Mogadishu but is still fighting for control of much of the southern and central Somalia where it faces armed factions backed by neighbours Ethiopia. The picture is muddied by local warlords who regularly shift loyalties between the transitional government and al-Shabaab depending on who pays more.

Last week an elderly French woman who was abducted from the Kenyan coast by Somali gunmen died in captivity. A British woman kidnapped in a similar incident is still being held in Somalia. Two Spanish aid workers were also taken by armed men from the main refugee camp near Kenya's Somali border. The abductions and the military response have seriously reduced international efforts to reach the victims of a deadly famine.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before