Monday, September 3, 2012

Troops step up Kismayu attack plans

Colonel Cyrus Oguna (right) from Department Of Defence, Operations, and Military Spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir. Photo/FILE

Colonel Cyrus Oguna (right) from Department Of Defence, Operations, and Military Spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir. Photo/FILE  Nation Media Group

By PATRICK MAYOYO [email protected] AND NYAMBEGA GISESA [email protected]

African Union troops are massing near the port city of Kismayu for the final onslaught to seize control from Al-Shabaab militants in their southern Somalia stronghold.

Reports indicate that African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) troops, supported by Kenya Defence Forces attack helicopters and naval ships, have reached Harbole, a town near Kismayu.

The troops are said to be waiting for approval from their commanders before launching Kismayu attack.

The allied forces have since Friday attacked Al-Shabaab strongholds near Kismayu forcing the Al-Qaeda-linked militia to flee to other areas. (READ: Amisom says 36 militants killed)

KDF spokesman, Col Cyrus Oguna, said on Monday that Amisom forces were ready to take over Kismayu.

“Al-Shabaab are doing everything to slow down our movement but they will not stop it. We know that this is not a walk in the park. We are not at the beach enjoying ourselves.

"We are prepared to have casualties and this is a price that our gallant soldiers are ready to pay,” he said.

Other military sources told the Nation that the Amisom forces were planning to seize the town this week.

The forces, which include Kenyan, Ugandan and Burundian soldiers, are fighting alongside the Somali army to remove Al-Shabaab from its remaining stronghold.

Ground attack

Military sources told the Nation that the Kenyan troops, which are in charge of Sector II, are facilitating the ground attack from the south as well as a naval assault while the Ugandan and Burundi contingents were moving in more ground troops from Mogadishu.

The commanders at the weekend attended a series of meetings at Karen Staff Training College in Nairobi and flew back to Somalia.

British experts are said to have facilitated the meetings also attended by Amisom Commander, Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti.

Earlier last week, Amisom spokesperson Eloi Yao told Nation the battle for Kismayu was being delayed by the deployment of troops, a necessary step to exchange old boots with fresh men.

Col Oguna said Kismayu was still in Sector II, which is under the operation area of Kenyan forces. The fight for Kismayu involves maritime, air and ground forces.

The Special Operations Regiment (SOR) that is made up of Rangers Strike Force identified as 40RSF and Special Forces (SF) known as 30SF has also been deployed.

SOR is the youngest regiment in the Kenyan military and is based in Gilgil. Although joining SOR is voluntary due to the extreme and dangerous nature of its training, only the best recruits are picked.

Soften targets

In the past few months, the Kenya Navy has attacked Kismayu in “shaping-up operations”, which are meant to soften targets and destroy key installations that the enemy forces could employ to defeat the attackers.

The Kenya Army has deployed its troops from most of its branches, which include infantrymen, armour, engineers, ordnance, medical corps, signals, transport, air calvary and artillery to ensure that the troops are self-sufficient for months.

In his tweets, military spokesperson Emmanuel Chirchir said Special Forces (SF) were involved in the rescue of three of the five missing KDF men during the battle for Miido town.

“The search and rescue operation lasted Saturday afternoon,” Col Oguna told journalists.

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