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Kenya’s Military Says Somalia Incursion Reaches Halfway Point

Jan. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Kenya’s military said its battle to crush an al Qaeda-linked insurgency in southern Somalia has reached the halfway mark and said its forces struck several command centers and logistic facilities operated by the al-Shabaab group.

“The war is almost half lost; al-Shabaab is now facing serious challenges as far as command and control is concerned and logistical support,” Colonel Cyrus Oguna, an army spokesman, told reporters in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, today. “It will not take a very long time before al-Shabaab is completely buried.”

In October, Kenyan troops entered Somalia saying they were pursuing al-Shabaab and securing the country’s borders and have since intensified attacks against the group’s bases. The incursion came after several foreign tourists and aid workers were murdered and abducted on Kenyan territory. Kenya blames al-Shabaab for the attacks, a charge the militants have denied.

Oguna said that in the past week, Kenyan forces have destroyed four of al-Shabaab’s organizational camps, some in the areas of Jilib and Bibi. Information about the fighting cannot be independently verified and the two sides’ version of events generally conflict.

Kenya may know by mid-February whether the United Nations will permit its soldiers to “re-hat” under the African Union Mission in Somalia, which is mandated by the UN, Lindsay Kiptiness, a Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman, said today.

Al-Shabaab has been battling Somalia’s western-backed government for five years and controls most of the southern and central regions. Somalia has had no effective central government since the downfall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre two decades ago.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah McGregor in Nairobi at smcgregor5@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net.

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