Kenyan forces want to seize one of al-Shabaab’s last major strongholds, the southern port of Kismayo, by August, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said.
Kenya’s military entered southern Somalia in October to drive out al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-linked militant group that has waged a five-year insurgency against the country’s United Nations-backed transitional government.
“Our aim is to get to Kismayo by August,” Odinga told reporters today in the capital, Nairobi. “Kismayo is the real major source of supply by al-Shabaab. Without controlling Kismayo it’s very difficult to completely neutralize al- Shabaab.”
Income from Somali ports, including Merka and Baraawe, earns al-Shabaab as much as $50 million a year from trade in sugar, charcoal and contraband, the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia said in a July report.
Somalia has had no effective central government since rebels deposed former leader Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s government is supposed to hold elections and finish its transitional rule by Aug. 20.
Kenya in October said it was deploying troops to secure its borders after a wave of attacks on foreigners it blamed on al- Shabaab. The group denied responsibility and vowed to strike back at Kenya with bomb attacks.
There should be construction of “supply centers” in Somalia to enable Somalia refugees living in Kenya to return home, Odinga said. Kenya hosts about 1 million Somalis and many are “economic refugees,” he said.
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