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Kenya to help fight Somali rebels

Thursday May 28 2009

Militants of al-Shabaab train with weapons on a street in the outskirts of Mogadishu.  Photo/ REUTERS

Militants of al-Shabaab train with weapons on a street in the outskirts of Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab has threatened to take over Kenya's North Eastern Province and subject people living there to Sharia law. Photo/ REUTERS 

By BENJAMIN MUINDI and KNA

Kenya has given its clearest indication of intervention in Somalia by pledging to help crush the al-Shabaab militia group.

Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetang’ula said Kenya will give Mogadishu all the necessary assistance in destroying the al-Qaeda-connected group.

Mr Wetang’ula did not indicate what kind of help Kenya would offer the Transitional Federal Government of President Ahmed Shariff but did not rule out military involvement.

Terror threats

The Somali insurgents, he said, posed a risk to the economy of the region through insecurity and terror threats.

“This is not good for investment in the region,” he told the press on the sidelines of the first anniversary celebrations of Prof Miriam Were’s Aids awards. Prof Were’s is the first laureate of the Hideyo Noguchi medical prize.

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The Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize, valued at Sh60 million, was presented to her in Yokohama, Japan, last year in recognising her role in the health sector.

This week, President Shariff called on the international community to help his government fight the rebels.
Al-Shabaab has threatened to take over the North Eastern Province and subject people living there to Sharia law.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), a regional grouping of which Kenya is a member, has called for an air blockade on Somalia to prevent weapons, suspected to be coming from Eritrea, from reaching the insurgents.

UN has accused Eritrea of arming the Islamic militants, a charge the Asmara government denies. Somalia has also asked Kenya, which has a huge Somali migrant community, to vet flights from Nairobi to Somalia.

It has been alleged that some of the Somali groups in Kenya meet in Eastleigh and raise cash for the insurgents.

Kenya has stepped up military border patrols since the insurgents stepped up their war on the government. The rebels now control large swathes of Mogadishu and southern parts of the country.

On Tuesday, a Kenyan military helicopter on normal patrol crash-landed near the border. Three soldiers on board survived the crash. The military has dismissed claims that the helicopter was shot down by Somali rebels, blaming a mechanical problem for the crash.

The helicopter

Soldiers, police officers and villagers who witnessed the accident yesterday said the helicopter crashed over a thicket, but the momentum pushed it to ram through a barbed wire fence. The wreckage is heavily guarded by soldiers.

“The thicket reduced the impact of the crash and saved the lives of the soldiers” said a senior military officer.

Soldiers and policemen rushed to the scene, a few metres away from their houses, and evacuated the trapped soldiers. They forced open the door and evacuated the army men as smoke billowed from the engine. A police fire hydrant was on standby in case the helicopter caught fire.

Retired policeman Mohamed Olow said he didn’t think the plane was shot down.