Kenyan Army Marks Progress Battling al-Shabab
October 20, 2011
Gabe Joselow | Nairobi
Kenyan army officials say a five-day-old incursion into Somalia has been successful, and that troops are pushing deeper into the territory in pursuit of al-Shabab militants.
Army Spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir says troops are targeting known al-Shabab hideouts.
"We've been doing targeting since 2009 in terms of al-Shabab bases in lower Juba," he said. "So pretty much we know the training camps, we have pictures of well all of their locations and this is actually pointing towards where we are going to target."
Chirchir also said a significant number of al-Shabab fighters have been killed in cross-border airstrikes.
"So far what we have counted is 73," he said. "However, we know [that] because of air action it could be more, it could be hundreds."
Kenya said it troops were about five kilometers outside of the al-Shabab-held town of Afmadow at midday Thursday, but that forward movement has been slowed by heavy rain.
Chirchir would not say exactly how many Kenyan troops are on the ground in Somalia, only that the number is "sufficient." Kenyan authorities have also suggested they will turn the battle inward to sweep members of al-Shabab or other hostile groups out of communities within Kenya's borders.
President Mwai Kibaki trumpeted the cause at a rally marking Heroes Day, a national holiday that honors Kenyan armed forces.
"We should all be vigilante and as true patriots ensure that we identify the bad elements amongst us," said the Kenyan president. "The hospitality of the Kenyan people must never be abused."
Meanwhile, Somali officials say their troops, along with African Union forces, have launched an assault against remaining al-Shabab elements in the capital Mogadishu.
Witnesses say Somali government forces are now in control of Daynile, the last part of the Somali capital that was controlled by al-Shabab militants.
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