|Written By:Milton Nyakundi/Agencies, Posted: Tue, Oct 18, 2011|
The Kenyan Defense Forces have captured at least four key towns controlled by the Al shabaab militias killing at least 75 insurgents.
Most of the militias who had been fleeing from the advancing Kenyans were killed near the town of Balesquqani, about 80 kilometres from Kismayu, the military said.
Military sources say the soldiers have taken control of at least four key Al-Shabaab strong-hold towns starting with Dhobley then Afmadow, Beles Qoqani and by evening they had seized Tabda, which is 63 miles into Somalia .
The Kenyans then took over Tabda, after overpowering pockets of Al Shabaab who had been holed up in the town in southern Somalia.
Commander in Charge of the operation lieutenant colonel Jeff Nyaga confirmed the killing of at least 75 militia.
Kenyan journalists who flew in a military helicopter to Tabda afternoon could not land due to heavy fighting that was going on in the town.
They said they saw Kenyan tanks and soldiers on foot bombarding Tabda from where bands of militia were taking off into semi arid terrain.
Lt Col. Nyagah said the operation was going as planned. He said all the areas recovered from Al Shabaab were being handed over to hands of the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
“We are receiving very good cooperation from the locals who had been subdued by Al Shabaab,” said Nyagah, adding that the operation was relying on aerial and ground intelligence.
The solidiers are now advancing to Indamfor, approximately 150 kilometers into Somali territory before crossing Juba river with a view to suffocating the Al-Qaeda linked group from its common border with Somalia.
The towns were taken over on day three of an offensive that aims to flash out the militia group that has recently started raiding Kenya.
Earlier, Military Spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir told KBC on phone that the operation was going on well despite the heavy down pour which has slowed it down.
Chirchir said they have information on the location where the two Spanish aid workers seized by gunmen from Dadaab refugee camp are being held.
Afmadow resident Hussein Osman Roble said warplanes were swooping low in the skies above the rebel stronghold .
“Most residents have been fleeing since yesterday towards Dhobley,” Roble told Reuters by telephone from inside Afmadow, referring to the border area now cleared of militants .
“Jets have flown low over Afmadow, terrifying the residents, while al Shabaab is digging trenches and tunnels for defense inside and around Afmadow,” Roble said.
On Monday, heavily armed Kenyan forces were concentrating their offensive at Qoqani region, about 100 kilometres from the border.
Al-Shabaab has warned of attacks in Kenya unless the troops withdraw. Al-Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage said: “We will defend ourselves. Kenya doesn’t know war. We know war. The tall buildings in Nairobi will be destroyed.
“We have fought against governments older and stronger than Kenya and we have defeated them
Kenya launched an air and ground assault on the weekend, in response to several recent cross-border abductions it blames on al-Shabab.
The hard-line group, which controls much of southern Somalia, denies carrying out the kidnappings.
Last month, a British woman and a Frenchwoman were abducted by suspected Al Shabaab militia from beach resorts at the Coast in two separate incidents.