Troops use aid to gather intelligence

Department of Defence's Colonel Cyrus Oguna during a status briefing on the 'Operation Linda Nchi' at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Nairobi November 12, 2011. Kenyan soldiers and the Al-Shabaab militia are using locals in a bid to emerge victorious in the military operation in Somalia November 26, 2011 FILE

Kenyan troops and Al-Shabaab militia are both using locals to win the war in Somalia.

While the Kenyan troops are using humanitarian assistance to gain the confidence of Somalis as they gather intelligence on Al-Shabaab, the terror group is using the locals as human shields.

During the weekly briefing on Operation Linda Nchi on Saturday, it emerged that Kenyan soldiers are gathering information on Al-Shabaab from Somalis, and in the process the troops are feeding and giving them medical treatment to avert a humanitarian crisis.

Armed Forces spokesman Colonel Cyrus Oguna said they were receiving information on the whereabouts of the militants from the locals as they interacted with them.

While defending the action by the military to feed the locals, Col Oguna dismissed claims from some NGOs that the operation had exacerbated the crisis in the Horn of Africa nation by interfering with humanitarian work.

“The needs of the local people are actually key as compared to the actual combat. Modern warfare has to also include humanitarian operations even as the soldiers pursue the militants,” Col Oguna said.

The spokesman also indicated that there were Kenyans among Al-Shabaab militants who had been killed, injured or arrested.

But he said Kenyan forces were not profiling those arrested.

Col Oguna said the Al-Shabaab training camps in the southern region that were broken up by Kenyan forces had the largest number of foreigners recruited from Kenya and other neighbouring countries.

He added that the militants have been moving from the camps and establishing new ones, but local Somalis have been helping the Kenyan forces identify them.

Col Oguna also revealed that a committee had been formed to investigate an incident in which fishermen said to be Kenyans were killed in the Indian Ocean by the Kenya military.

He said that the findings from the investigation would be made public.

“We are very sorry about the incident if indeed those killed were Kenyans. But we also have to ask ourselves why, if they were Kenyans, they refused to surrender when ordered to. All law-abiding citizens should support the government as security is not just for the police and the army,” he said.

Speaking at the same briefing, deputy director at Foreign Affairs division in charge of the Horn of Africa Lindsay Kiptiness said that Kenya had embarked on a diplomatic offensive to seek more international support for the operation.

He said the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development summit in Addis Ababa on Friday had backed the Kenyan operation, and Kenya would now use ,the body’s organs to solicit more support from the international community.

He said the Igad summit also asked Ethiopia to support Amison in Somalia and reiterated that Eritrea must come clean over past engagements with Al-Shabaab elements.