Somalia’s al Shabaab increases Kenya border raids

Halkaan ka akhri

WAJIR Kenya – Hardline Islamists from Somalia are increasingly launching cross-border raids into Kenya’s remote north east despite a heightened state of alert there, local residents and officials said.

Kenya has long cast a wary eye at its anarchic neighbour where first clan warlords and now Islamist insurgents have reduced government to impotence.

Now in Kenya’s arid North Eastern province, there is talk of an increase in gun-battles between al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab fighters and rival Somali militia groups bent on control of parts of southern Somalia.

At the Dadachabulla border post, local elder Mohamed Barre Ali said people were living under constant threat of cross-border attacks from al Shabaab. The rebels control swathes of central and southern Somalia as well as much of the capital Mogadishu.

“Last month they attacked a hotel, spraying bullets all over the place for over two hours,” Ali told Reuters. Three people were abducted during the raid while the hotel owner’s young daughter was shot in the thigh.

“It was not the first raid and it will not be the last. They issued another warning they would attack us two days ago,” he said pointing to bullet-pocked houses and cars.

In July, Kenyan troops clashed with al Shabaab fighters along the Somali border amid reports both sides were sending reinforcements to the area.

Twice hit by al Qaeda-linked attacks, Kenya has trained thousands of Somali recruits to beef up troops loyal to Somalia’s President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, drawing condemnation from al Shabaab.

But it is the alleged support of al Shabaab’s enemies that is proving controversial along the frontier.


Kenya’s failure to flush out the Somali militiamen fighting al Shabaab might in fact be a strategic decision to help keep al Shabaab at bay, a local politician and a military source told Reuters.

“A section of local leaders have colluded with Somali militants and have sanctioned the use of their fighters to hold al Shabaab back and create a buffer zone,” a retired military official told Reuters in the border town of Liboi.

He said the frequency of attacks had increased, with six raids in or near Liboi in July.

“They (insurgents) have opened up new battle grounds in parts of Kenya’s territory. It is a serious security issue which confirms Kenya’s direct involvement. Our government must stay out of this conflict,” he said.

Since early 2007, Somalia’s Islamist insurgents have focused their energies on toppling the government, a fragile, Western-backed interim administration that is riven by internal bickering.

Some 6,300 African Union peacekeepers are supporting Somalia’s poorly equipped, poorly paid and often unmotivated troops, but they are effectively limited to guarding Mogadishu’s port and airport and shielding the president from rebel attacks.

Last month, however, al Shabaab ramped up the regional security threat they pose with a bomb attack on the Ugandan capital that killed 79 people while they were watching the soccer World Cup final on television.

The strike, their first on foreign soil, was in revenge for Uganda’s deployment of peacekeepers to Somalia, the group said.

Kenya too has been threatened in the past and there are fears its support of local Somali militia and the simmering violence in the north could drag east Africa’s largest economy into Somalia’s festering conflict.

Not wanting to be named, a local politician said al Shabaab’s incursions into border towns such as Liboi, Dadachabulla and Hulugho would continue until the Kenyan authorities stopped supporting the Somali militia groups.

“Al Shabaab threaten to attack us every day. They are angered because their rivals are using our country to fight them,” the politician said. “It’s suicidal to discuss with anybody or express discomfort with their presence.”


Provincial officials said the clashes along the border had forced Somali combatants to flee into Kenya but denied that the militants were being actively backed.

“Kenya has no interest at all to engage or support any militant Somali group. Our main concern, and we have been successful, has been to prevent the fighting, which happens very close to us, from spilling inside our territory,” Gabriel Risie, district commissioner of Wajir South, told Reuters.

An intelligence source in the region said a heightened security presence had stymied al Shabaab’s recruitment efforts inside Kenya.

Earlier this year, the United States voiced concerns the Dadaab refugee camp, 90 km (55 miles) from the Somali border and home to more than 280,000 Somali refugees, might be a recruiting ground for al Shabaab.

For many youths holed up in the camp’s flimsy shacks made of sticks and plastic sheeting, however, there is mounting anger towards the Islamists for perpetuating violence at home and threatening their lives as they seek refuge abroad.

“Only a mad person supports the militia groups in Somalia. We fled Somalia but they are still creating problems for us,” said one, fearful of retribution if he identified himself.

Source:  Reuters

%d bloggers like this: