|Kenya's army chief said his troops will withdraw when Kenyans 'feel that they are safe enough from al-Shabab' [AFP]
The Kenyan military has no firm date for a withdrawal from Somalia, where it is battling al-Shabab fighters, the country's military chief has said.
General Julius Karanga was speaking to a news briefing in Nairobi on Saturday, as at least 10 people were killed in an attack on an African Union base in Mogadishu, the Somali capital.
"When the Kenya government and the people of this country feel that they are safe enough from the al-Shabab menace, we shall pull back," Karangi said.
"Key success factors or indicators will be in the form of a highly degraded al-Shabab capacity."
Earlier this month, Kenya sent its own troops into Somalia following a string of cross-border attacks and kidnappings blamed on Somali gunmen and the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group.
Both the UN and Ethiopia have earlier sent in forces into Somalia at different times in order to stablise the country during its 20-year civil war, but both were forced to withdraw without ending the conflict.
Karangi said that Kenya did not wish to permanently occupy Somalia, and that his forces were working alongside the UN-backed Somali government.
"We acted as a country on the spur of the moment," he said. "At no point did we plan to enter Somalia and annex territory there."
The Somali president has criticised the intervention, but Kenyan officials said they expected "clarification" from a high-level Somali delegation on Monday.
So far, Kenya has suffered one fatality due to al-Shabab fire, Karangi said. Five personnel were also killed when a helicopter crashed.
He said that hundreds of al-Shabab fighters had been killed in Kenyan operations, though he was not able to confirm that, or provide an exact figure.
'No allied involvement'
Responding to a question regarding any other countries operating in Somalia through the Kenyan intervention, General Karangi said that while Kenya had bilateral military agreements with several countries, they were not involved in Nairobi's Somalia operations.
"There has been a lot of talk about other friends of ours participating militarily in what we are engaged in, and the answer is no," he said.
"I think the American ambassador yesterday made it very clear ... that they are not militarily involved in the campaign with us."
Officials present at the briefing dismissed any speculation that the Kenyan government was ready to negotiate with al-Shabab.
"We will not negotiate with criminal terrorist groups," Francis Kimemia, permanent secretary at the internal security ministry said.
Yusuf Haji, the Kenyan defence minister, said that international forces in Somalia are soon to be strengthened by a boost in AMISOM, which consists at the moment of 9,000 Ugandan and Burundian troops.
Attack in Mogadishu
At least 10 people were killed in the attack on the AU base in Mogadishu, a Somali military official said.
The attackers were attempting to infiltrate a based manned by AMISOM, the AU's mission in Somalia, on Saturday.
"They were dressed in Somali military uniform and disguised as ordinary soldiers," said Colonel Nor Abdi.
"Then they tried to enter the base and AMISOM soldiers fired at them.
"Then heavy gunfire started and all of them were killed.
"I don't know how many they were but they were more than 10 men."
Mohammed Abdi, a local resident, said that he heard several large explosions take place near the base. The gunfight lasted for several hours and the final number of casualties was unclear.
Al-Shabab fighters claimed in a statement to have "stormed the AMISOM compound killing 80 Ugandan soldiers" in a battle that lasted over two hours, the AFP news agency reported.
AU troops have been deployed in Somalia since 2007, and now control almost all of the capital. They continue, however, to suffer frequent attacks.
Somalia has not had a functioning government since warlords overthrew the Somali Revolutionary Socialist Party in 1991.
More than 600,000 Somali refugees have fled the fighting and famine in their homeland and now live in Kenya.