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Kenya gets nod to join AU troops in Somalia offensive

Friday January 6 2012

Kenyan troops heading to Amuma border entry

Kenyan troops heading to Amuma border entry point to flush out al Shabaab militants. PHOTO/ WILLIAM OERI | NATION 

By By JOHN NGIRACHU [email protected]

The African Union has approved a decision to have the Kenya Defence Forces continue their operation against Al-Shabaab in Somalia under the continental body’s mission.

In a communique from Addis Ababa following a meeting of the Peace and Security Council on Thursday, the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) troops will be increased to 17,731 forces from the current 12,000.

The additional 5,700 will come from Djibouti and the re-hatted Kenyan troops. Amisom will also introduce police to maintain law and order.

If the UN Security Council approves KDF joining Amisom, the troops are likely to be in Somalia for another 12 months as the AU also decided to renew the mandate of the continental forces for that period.

Al-Shabaab can also expect to remain in the crosshairs of Amisom forces, with the AU saying it is determined “to take all necessary measures against all spoilers, both internal and external, who are engaged in actions aimed at undermining the peace and reconciliation process in Somalia, as well as the efforts of Amisom.”

AU asked the Security Council to “expeditiously consider and authorise” the request to take advantage of the current pressure on Al-Shabaab and consolidate security gains.

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The militants are under pressure from Ethiopians in the north, Amisom forces in Mogadishu and the KDF on three fronts from the Kenyan border. Amisom was created in 2007 by the Peace and Security Council of the AU, with its forces stationed in Mogadishu, where they have struggled to hold off Al-Shabaab.

The Transitional Federal Government forces have been fighting to wrest control of much of southern Somalia from Al-Shabaab and had not had much success until Operation Linda Nchi started in October.

It was not clear whether KDF would get the enhanced mandate it desires, which would allow it to continue with its aerial bombardment of Al- Shabaab targets and the kind of fighting that resulted in the killing of the militants’ commander last week.

Amisom will also be sending troops to areas now liberated by the Ethiopian forces, which re-entered Somalia late last year.