27 January 2016

African Heads of State Mourn Fallen Kenyan Troops

Photo: Nation/Xinhua
File photo.

Three African presidents have joined a memorial service for Kenyan troops killed in Somalia by al-Shabab militia. The same day Kenyan police said at least five officers had been killed by a roadside bomb.

Uhuru Kenyatta, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and Muhammadu Buhari, the presidents of Kenya, Somalia and Nigeria respectively, paid tribute to Kenyan troops killed in an attack in El-Ade, Somalia on January 15 at a memorial service in Eldoret in western Kenya on Wednesday (27.01.2016).

Kenyatta told relatives of the soldiers who had fallen that they "served in difficult circumstances in difficult circumstances far from their homes all to keep us safe."

The Somali Islamist al-Shabab militia claimed to have killed 100 Kenyan troops in the attack on the El-Ade African Union military base. Neither Kenyatta nor his government has commented on the number of casualties.

However a Somali government official in Gedo, the administrative region in southern Somalia, told dpa that he believed more than 120 soldiers had either been killed or wounded and some of them had been taken alive by the militants.

Somali President Sheikh Mohamoud said his country would forever "remain indebted " to Kenya.

He was evidently referring not just to the recent sacrifice by Kenyan troops, but more generally to Kenya's contribution to the 20,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) which is battling the al-Shabab insurgency.

"I want to assure you, we will defeat them," Sheikh Mohamoud said.

Claims by al-Shabab

Kenyan troops however, pulled out of the towns of Badhaade and El-Ade in southern Somalia on Tuesday. Al-Shabab have since claimed to have recaptured the towns.

"Badhaade and El-Ade are in our hands," al-Shabaab spokesman Abdiasis Abu Mus'ab said on the pro-insurgent radio station Andalus.

Peter Alingo, an analyst with the Institute for Security Studies in Nairobi, told DW's AfricaLink radio show that Kenyans were "generally not welcome in Somalia."

This was an added challenge when trying to defeat an insurgency. "The identification of militants becomes extremely difficult without the benefit of cooperation of local people," he said.

On the day of the memorial service for the Kenyan troops, Kenyan police revealed that five of their officers had been killed in the coastal county of Lamu the day before when their truck hit an improvised explosive device planted by suspected al-Shabab militants.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who is on a three -ay official visit to Kenya, is also battling an insurgency. He told relatives of the fallen in Kenya that his country "has had her share of dastardly acts committed by Boko Haram."

He also said that people should rise up against a "culture of intolerance, hatred and extremist ideologies."

James Shimanyula in Nairobi contributed to this report.

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