A third shipment of arms has been made to Al-Shabaab, the Somali terror group that Kenyan troops are fighting, military spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir has said. (Read: Two planes fly arms to Al-Shabaab)
“We can positively confirm that another aircraft with weapons has landed in Somalia,” he said.
The arms are believed to have originated from Eritrea, which the United Nations and the international community has accused of arming the militants.
The weapons delivered are for retaliatory attacks against Kenyan troops. The military has announced that it will launch airstrikes to destroy them.
“We are concentrating on how to disarm the enemy,” Maj Chirchir was quoted by AFP as saying.
Eritrea, which seceded from Ethiopia and has fought a war against it, has supported Somali groups that are opposed to Ethiopia.
On Wednesday, Eritrea issued a statement denying arming Al-Shabaab and accused its bitter enemy, Ethiopia, of fabricating the reports.
“The Government of Eritrea states categorically that these accusations are pure fabrications and outright lies as Eritrea has not sent any arms to Somalia,” the statement read.
The Eritrean authorities claimed they have never advocated a military solution to the Somali problem, but a Somali-owned political process “inclusive of Somaliland, Puntland and all other key stakeholders.”
“Tuesday’s baseless accusations are the latest product of disinformation campaign orchestrated to undermine Eritrea and frustrate its constructive regional and international engagement. Chief among the authors of this campaign is Ethiopia, which is not only occupying sovereign Eritrean territory in violation of international law and UN Security Council resolutions, but is also the main cause of destabilisation in the Horn of Africa,” the statement added.
“Eritrea’s sole interest in Somalia is to see peace and stability return. There can be no military solution to the problem of Somalia,” the statement read.
On Tuesday, the Kenyan military warned residents of 10 towns, namely, Baidoa, Baadheere, Baydhabo, Dinsur, Afgooye, Bwale, Barawe, Jilib, Kismayu and Afmadow not to go near Al-Shabaab bases because it would strike them to destroy the weapons.
On Wednesday, there were reports that fear had gripped residents of the towns in southern Somalia.
Media reports quoted residents of Baadheere, Kismayu, Baidoa and Afmadow saying many people planned to flee to the bush or to Kenya to escape the imminent attacks.
“We are determined to flee to the jungle. We cannot stay in a town which is to be bombed,” Reuters quoted Yusuf Guled, a resident of Baadheere, one of the Al-Shabaab controlled towns targeted by the Kenyan troops for attacks.
By Tuesday evening, residents were seen packing their belongings and leaving for unknown destinations, a local radio station, Bar Kulan, reported.
It quoted a resident, identified as Farha Hassan Ali, saying that residents had decided to flee their homes around rebel bases for fear of aerial attacks similar to those of Jilib on Sunday.
An NGO reported that three people were killed and 52 wounded in the air raids.
Reports said the Al-Shabaab militants had, on Saturday night, ordered residents in the Baidoa airstrip vicinity to immediately move from the area hours before the first two aeroplanes carrying the weapons arrived.
Come Sunday, the militants sealed off the area around the airstrip and conducted patrols along the road leading to the airstrip.
On Wednesday morning Al-Shabaab fighters moved around Baidoa ordering local youths to join them in fighting advancing Kenyan troops, the radio station reported.
The rebels reportedly used loudspeakers mounted on pick-up trucks to ask youths to join in the fight against the Kenyan troops.
The station quoted Al-Shabaab leader Adan Ali threatening those who refuse to join what he called the “holy war” with dire consequences.
The reports also said that at least five militants who were headed to Kismayu from Baidoa to prepare for a major battle with the Kenyan troops died after the vehicle they were travelling in rolled several times at Ramo Adey area, 40 kilometres from Dinsor Town.
The militants were allegedly reinforcing other militants ahead of an imminent confrontation with the Kenyan troops.
Meanwhile, a joint delegation from Kenya and Somalia arrived in Dobley, one of the towns which have been captured by the Kenyan troops, on Wednesday for what sources termed a fact-finding mission.
The delegation, led by Somalia’s deputy prime minister Hussein Arab Isse, held talks with area elders, TFG officials and Ras Kamboni militia group officials.
However, it could not be established if Kenya government officials were in the delegation.