Western allies assisting war on Somali militants

By Daniel Howden

Kenya has confirmed that Western allies have joined its war on Islamic militants al-Shabaab despite denials from the United States 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, said Kenya's Major Emmanuel Chirchir.

The Kenyan invasion has already caused a rift between Somalia's interim Prime Minister, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, 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 Ali said yesterday's condemnation by the President came as a huge surprise and would have major implications for the offensive against al-Shabaab.

Fears of a backlash of terror attacks against Kenya were underlined by a blast at a nightclub in Nairobi that seriously injured 12 people. The attack was linked by police to al-Shabaab.

It came only a day after the US embassy warned expats in the Kenyan capital of a credible threat of 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.

Kenyan army spokesman 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- Qaeda."

The US has denied carrying out air strikes reported by residents around the port city of Kismayo in the past week. Kenya said on Monday that the French Navy was bombarding al- Qaeda-linked militants from the sea but later backtracked on this after denials from Paris.

Kenyan forces crossed into southern Somalia nine days ago following a spate of abductions of foreigners that it blames on al-Shabaab. 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.

The breakaway effort is led by a French-educated former Somali government minister Mohamed Abdi, who styles himself "Professor Gandhi".

- Independent

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 18 Dec 2014 21:01:47 Processing Time: 1622ms