KDF kills Shabaab commanders and takes over bases

What you need to know:

  • The bombardments were jointly carried out by the Air Force with F-5 fighter jets and the Kenya Army’s airborne unit, the 50 Air Calvary Battalion, that deployed helicopter gunships.
  • The two commanders had been co-ordinating operations from the command centre that was on Saturday afternoon occupied by the Kenya Army Infantry ground troops backed by allies from the Somali National Army.
  • As a result of the defeat the militia group shut down its radio and closed its offices in Kismayu. It was the first time in five years that the Al-Shabaab offices in Kismayu had been closed.

Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) have seized Al-Shabaab’s command centre in Kismayu as it emerged that two top commanders of the militia were among the first casualties of the Friday attack.

Sheikhs Hassan Yakub and Abdikarim Adow were among the militiamen killed during aerial bombings targeting Al-Shabaab logistic centres, said the officer in charge of information Colonel Cyrus Oguna.

“KDF has captured the whole old town and expanding control towards the new town. So far we have taken the Al-Shabaab command centre north of the city, the airport, the local university and a major road block that was being used by Al-Shabaab,” he said.

The bombardments were jointly carried out by the Air Force with F-5 fighter jets and the Kenya Army’s airborne unit, the 50 Air Calvary Battalion, that deployed helicopter gunships.

The two commanders had been co-ordinating operations from the command centre that was on Saturday afternoon occupied by the Kenya Army Infantry ground troops backed by allies from the Somali National Army.

Back in Kenya, security agencies are on high alert to guard against possible retaliatory attacks. As a result of the defeat the militia group shut down its radio and closed its offices in Kismayu.

It was the first time in five years that the Al-Shabaab offices in Kismayu had been closed. (READ: Shabaab abandon Kismayu)

KDF made advances into Kismayu as it emerged that President Kibaki – who is on official travel in New York – was kept abreast of what is billed as Kenya’s biggest military move.

“The Head of State was fully informed about the takeover. Before he went (to the US), he received a full briefing from General Karangi. He was in the picture all through,” said the head of the Presidential Press Service Isaiah Kabira.

Al-Shabaab has been controlling Kismayu’s commerce and levying taxes as one way to help run its operations across Somalia and beyond.

Barely 24 hours after the infantry troops landed, Al-Shabaab fighters vanished from defence posts they had erected in parts of Kismayu and the militia’s propaganda wing, the HSM Press, announced the withdrawal posted in its official Twitter account.

“Last night, after more than five years the Islamic administration in Kismayu closed its offices,” the post stated.

“The ground forces have not gotten any resistance. However we are treating it with caution. We are validating the information and trying to assess its authenticity. So far it remains just a theory,” said Col Oguna.

He added that al-Andulus radio, which the Al-Shabaab used to broadcast to the residents, had gone off the air.

In Nairobi, security officers were put on high alert following intelligence reports that surviving members of a defeated Al-Shabaab were likely to carry out attacks in the city and other parts of Kenya.

“We have intelligence reports indicating there could be revenge attacks. Security officers are on high alert and the public is reminded to maintain vigilance and report any suspicious behaviour and persons to the police,” said police spokesman Eric Kiraithe.

KDF continued the attacks into the night, and five Al-Shabaab militants were killed, and a lorry and an assortment of weapons recovered.

Operation Sledge Hammer, the code name of the secret night attack that saw Kenyan troops set foot in Kismayu for the first time since the incursion into Somalia in October last year was the peak of three days of secret undertaking.

Besides landing infantry ground troops by sea, armoured personnel carriers were also delivered to Kismayu port by Kenya Navy warships.

“It was a complete force. The way it was done, everything moved by sea just as it would have been on land. All equipment that was needed to ensure whole operation went on as planned was transported together with the troops,” said Col Oguna.

Military experts said such a high- level military operation must be personally authorised by the Commander-in-Chief. Following the progress of the operation from New York, President Kibaki praised the brave soldiers for capturing Kismayu.

“This is a game changer for the people of Somalia; it’s a defining moment. A people long used to being subject to forces of terrorism that sought to engage in siege mentality of extremism now have a good chance of restoring peace in their country, and engaging in productive economic and social opportunities,” he said.

Separately, Somalia leaders welcomed the latest developments. Addressing journalists in Nairobi, leaders led by former Somalia Information minister Ahmed Ashareh said taking control of the Somalia port city was long overdue.

The leaders also backed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s call on the international community to continue supporting Somalia, stressing that “there is no time to lose” as the country is still facing serious humanitarian and security challenges.

“What has happened in Somalia should have been done 20 years ago. The liberation of the country should be followed with the establishment of local administrations inclusive of all clans and sub-clans,” they said.

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