Kenyan soldiers over the weekend crossed into Somalia and bombarded an Al Shabaab stronghold in Qoqani in lower Juba land which is about 100 kilometers from the Kenya Somali border.
The attack comes just hours after the Internal Security minister George Saitoti and Defence minister Yusuf Haji said the government would pursue the Al Shabab militia into Somalia as part of its 'robust measures" to protect and preserve the integrity of the country.
The attack which also involved soldiers of the Transitional Federal government saw Kenyan choppers shell the Al Shabab base at Qoqani. The TFG military officer at Qoqani Hassan Bule said the Al Shabab were driven out and were now headed towards Afmadow. Government spokesman Dr. Alfred Mutua confirmed the the cross-over which other sources say was aided by US forces.
Somali's ambassador to Kenya Mohammed Noor immediately condemned the attack adding "any attempted move to attack Somali's sovereignty" in the name of Al Shabaab is "unacceptable." Noor said his country was saddened by the recent kidnappings of foreigners in the country said he also understood Kenya's need to defend its territory and to pursue those who attacked its sovereignity.
He said his government was doing its best to fight Al Shabaab and had in the last two days launched "offensive raids" at Al Shabaab targets. He denied any knowledge of a ground offensive by Kenyan troops and said he was aware they were gathering along the border. Earlier yesterday, villagers close to the border had confirmed seeing Kenyan troops heading into Somali alongside the artillery of weapons and helicopters flying overhead.
Somalia's government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman said Kenya was only providing "logistical and moral support" and that it was the Somali forces who were battling the Al Shabaab. As a result of the offensive an Al Shabaab controlled town of Qoqani has been taken over by the Somali government.
Sources within the army, said Kenya army officers were now overseeing security operations between 50 and 60 kilometers inside Somalia, along the border with Kenya as a way of combating Al- Shabaab and its operations.
Kenya is providing all material support to Somali military officers trained in Kenya and who have been deployed to the front-line and propped from behind by the Kenya army to keep away Al Shabaab fighters. "We have to provide them with everything from uniform to boots to ammunition. Even the food they eat is ours. If we don't do that, they will collapse within a day," the military source said. The offensive launched over the weekend is expected to continue until a peaceful buffer zone is established between Kenya and its northern neighbour.
Sources high in government confirmed that administrators had already been trained to take over the towns and areas liberated from the Al Shabaab militia. The leaders are being trained in Nairobi before they are deployed to these regions. The administrators are in close contact with the country's security agencies such as the NSIS which also provides the administrators with logistical and equipment support. "The international community cannot be relied upon to take the lead because many countries of the West have little interest in Somalia or do not put their money where their mouth is. We have to do this to protect our national security," the source not authorised to speak to the press said.
Today, Defence minister Yusuf Haji and Saitoti are expected to hold a meeting with MPs to discuss the decision to pursue the Al Shabaab. They are expected to appear before the Defence and Foreign Relations Committee to explain measures the government has so far taken to protect citizens and foreigners in the country.
The committee's chairman and Wajir West MP Adan Keynan yesterday said Parliament needed to step in to ensure the sovereignty of the country is protected. "The cardinal responsibility of a government is to protect the sovereignty which is hinged on enough security on internationally recognized boarders. Then the security of our people and our visitors cannot be comprised.
The committee is expected to introduce a report in the House recommending the urgent and long term measures the country should take to protect itself from aggressions by the Al-Shabaab militias or any other group. The committee chairman said Mps will also be pushing for the international community to take a greater role in punishing persons responsible for destabilising Somalia.
On Saturday, the government ordered the military into action to stop Al-Shabaab militia from further threatening the country's security and economy. The defence minister and his internal security counterpart declared war on the terrorist organisation operating from Somalia and said Kenyan security forces will henceforth pursue the aggressors across the border.
The move follows last week's kidnapping of two Spanish aid workers who were grabbed from the Dadaab refugee camp by Al-Shabaab militias and taken into lawless Somalia. The two women were working as logisticians for the aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, Doctors Without Borders).