Somali president speaks out against Kenyan incursion

October 27, 2011

Somali President Sharif Ahmed said Monday that the strike degrades the trust built up between the two countries over the past few decades, and called Kenya’s actions “not good.”

His comments contradict a joint Somali-Kenyan communique issued three days after the Kenyan incursion. In that statement, both countries declared the Islamic extremist group Al-Shabaab “a common enemy to both countries” and pledged to work together to stabilize Somalia and cooperate in security and military operations.

Kenyan forces entered Somalia on October 15 in a strike on Al-Shabaab, a Somali militant group that Kenya blames for the recent kidnappings of foreigners from northern Kenya.

The Kenyan forces are ultimately seeking to take the Somali port city of Kismayo, described by the United Nations as a key stronghold and source of cash for Al-Shabaab. The United Nations estimates the group collects up to $50 million a year from businesses in Kismayo, about half of its annual income.

Somali’s frail Transitional Federal Government, aided by forces from the African Union, has itself been fighting Al-Shabaab militants in the capital, Mogadishu, and reported last week that they had largely pushed the group out of that city.

On Monday, the state-run Kenya Broadcasting Corporation reported that Kenyan troops were gearing up for an assault of Afmadow in south central Somalia, a key location in the effort to capture Kismayo.

Kenyan forces had pushed 35 kilometers (about 22 miles) north into Somalia as of Monday, KBC reported, and were conducting aerial assaults against Al-Shabaab positions in Kismayo.

Kenyan officials declared self-defense justifies crossing the border with Somalia, saying the recent spate of kidnappings threatened its security and constituted an attack.

“If you are attacked by an enemy, you have to pursue that enemy through hot pursuit and to try (to) hit wherever that enemy is,” Kenyan Defense Minister Yusuf Haji said in a news conference Sunday.

Al-Shabaab warned Kenya that it would face repercussions if it did not withdraw its troops immediately. Days later, twin explosions in Nairobi killed at least one person.

In response to suggestions that the United States might be aiding the Kenyan assault, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman said Monday that it is not providing any advice or assistance to Kenya. Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman, reiterated that point Tuesday, saying, “The United States is not participating in Kenya’s current operation in Somalia.”

The kidnappings that sparked the Kenyan attack raised the ire of Kenyans and Westerners alike.

On September 11, armed bandits broke into a beachfront cottage where Britons Judith and David Tebbutt, both in their 50s, were staying.

David Tebbutt was shot dead while trying to resist the attack. His wife was grabbed and spirited away aboard the pirates’ speedboat. She is believed to have been taken into Somalia.

On October 1, pirates made another cross-border raid, this time snatching a French woman in her 60s from the holiday home on Manda Island, where she lived for part of the year. That woman, Marie Dedieu, reportedly died after her capture.

And last week, gunmen abducted two Spaniards working for the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) from the Dadaab refugee complex, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the Somali border.