Kenya to Keep Troops in Somalia Backing African Union Force

  • Kenyan army denies accusations its jets targeted civilians
  • Al-Shabaab says its fighters killed 100 Kenya troops in attack

Kenya’s army will continue backing the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia and has no plans to withdraw its forces, spokesman David Obonyo said amid reports that its soldiers are pulling out of some Somali towns.
 
Obonyo also rejected claims by Somali lawmakers that bombing raids by Kenyan jets targeted civilians. Kenya’s air force has been targeting al-Shabaab, a militant group aligned to al-Qaeda, since the Islamist militants said they killed 100 Kenyan soldiers in a a Jan. 15 attack on a Kenyan army camp in El-Adde, southwestern Somalia. The Kenyan government hasn’t given a death toll.

“Were the people who attacked our troops civilians?” Obonyo said. “Those claims are not true, we don’t target civilians. We went there to protect civilians.”

Kenyan troops vacated El-Adde town early Tuesday, Da’ud Abdi, a resident, told Bloomberg by phone. “KDF retreated toward the border with Kenya,” he said. 

Some inhabitants of Badhaadhe, a town in Lower Juba region, said Kenyan soldiers had also left the town and were headed for the frontier. Al-Shabaab fighters had taken over the town and raised the group’s black banner at all bases.

Kenya deployed its troops in neighboring Somalia in 2011 to support the country’s fledgling government and push back the militant group that has made frequent attacks on its soil.

Al-Shabaab has waged an insurgency in Somalia since 2006 to impose its version of Islamic law. While it has lost territory since being driven out of the capital, Mogadishu, in 2011 by government and AU forces, it continues to stage deadly gun and bomb attacks both at home and around the region.

The Islamist fighters often use human shields when driving their convoys into towns, forcing African Union soldiers to “halt attacks to protect civilians,” Obonyo said.

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