By Peter Martell (AFP)
NAIROBI — Kenya said on Thursday its warplanes destroyed two Islamist insurgent bases in neighbouring Somalia, but a bomb back on home soil killed a soldier and wounded four others.
The exchanges came six weeks after Nairobi sent troops and tanks into Somalia to fight the Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents, accused of a series of attacks in Kenya including the abduction of four foreign women.
“KDF (Kenya Defence Force) air strikes successfully destroyed two Al-Shebab camps,” army spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir said the day after the attacks near Badade, some 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the Kenyan border.
Early Thursday a bomb exploded under a military truck on patrol just inside Kenya, Chirchir said.
“Five KDF soldiers were seriously injured and have been airlifted to Garissa for treatment,” he said, adding that one later “succumbed to his injuries.”
Attackers opened fire on the soldiers after the blast, which happened near the Kenyan border town of Mandera, according to a senior police officer speaking on condition of anonymity.
Kenyan officials have blamed the hardline Shebab or their sympathisers for a spate of recent shootings and bombings, although armed bandits also operate in the border areas.
The extremist militia face growing pressure as regional armies slowly encircle them, with Kenyan forces in the south, Ugandan and Burundian African Union forces in Mogadishu and Ethiopian troops in the west.
The conflict however comes at a cost for civilians caught up in the skirmishes.
The United Nations warned Thursday that Ethiopia’s reported deployment of troops into Somalia could worsen what is already the world’s most severe humanitarian crisis.
“Local sources report that hundreds of Ethiopian troops entered Somalia on November 20 opening a new front against Al Shebab,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report.
“The humanitarian community is deeply concerned about the consequences that this intervention could have on the already fragile humanitarian situation due to access to the population,” the report warned.
“The intensification of the conflict in Somalia threatens to increase internal displacement,” it added, the first time the United Nations has warned of the potentially dangerous consequences of Ethiopia’s move.
Some 250,000 people in south and central Somalia face imminent starvation, the UN report added, despite massive international efforts to get emergency aid out to critically affected regions of the war-torn country.
Witnesses told AFP on November 19 that convoys of lorries and hundreds of Ethiopian troops crossed into south and central Somalia. Addis Ababa has denied the reports.
Ethiopia pulled out its soldiers from Somalia in 2009 after a two-year invasion that defeated an Islamist movement, but the group’s military wing, the Shebab, regrouped and has waged a bloody war against a provisional government that has only a tenuous hold.
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