Somali fighters in deadly cross-border raid

At least six Kenyans killed and others kidnapped in attack by Islamist al-Shabab group, about 10km from Somali border.

 Kenya sent troops into Somali in October following a spate of cross-border attacks blamed on al-Shabab [Reuters]

Somalia’s Islamist al-Shabab group have killed at least six Kenyans in a cross-border raid, claiming revenge for Nairobi’s troop deployment against the al-Qaeda-linked group, police and fighters said.

Four police officers, a local government official and a civilian were killed in the attack by assailants, using firearms and an explosive device, said regional police chief Leo Nyongesa.

The fighters also kidnapped three people believed to be local government officials, and wounded another two policemen in the attack in Kenya’s northeast, about 10km from the Somali border, he said.

The area has been hit by a series of blasts in the three months since Nairobi sent troops into Somalia to fight al-Shabab.

“Six people have been killed, and three others were abducted,” in the attack on Wednesday in Gerille in Kenya’s Wajir district, said Nyongesa.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, which they said was carried out in revenge for “the aggressive Kenyan invasion against the Muslims of Somalia”.

“Seven Kenyan administration police and government officials were immediately killed, while others were taken prisoners,” al-Shabab said in a statement, adding they also seized vehicles, communication equipment and weapons.

Kenyan officials have blamed the group and their sympathisers for a string of recent bombings and shootings, although armed bandits also operate in border areas.

Kenyans criticised

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned that Kenyan security forces have been abusing civilians and Somali refugees in the northeastern regions following the spate of attacks since Nairobi sent troops into Somali in October.

Hand grenades have been thrown into bars and a church, while homemade explosive devices have been set off apparently targeting security forces.

“In response, members of the security forces have been responsible for rape, beatings, looting, and arbitrary arrests of civilians,” the New York-based rights group said in a statement on Thursday.

“The crackdown has largely targeted Somali refugees and Kenyan ethnic Somalis, but residents of other ethnic backgrounds in North Eastern province have also been victimized.”

The most recent incident, HRW said, was the rounding up and beating on January 11 of residents of Garissa, the capital of North Eastern Province, in a local military camp.

“When military officers can beat civilians in broad daylight without fearing repercussions, it’s clear that impunity has become the norm,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at HRW.

“Repeated promises by both the police and the military to stop these abuses and investigate have amounted to nothing.” 

Kenyan army spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir told HRW he did not have knowledge of any abuses, but that the military would investigate the claims.

Victims told HRW they were told to roll around on the ground then kicked and beaten with the butts of guns simply because they were going about their business in the vicinity of the military camp.

Regional armies

Armed groups have recently also targeted Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, about 100 km south of Wednesday’s attack, which houses about 460,000 Somalis who have fled famine and war over the past two decades.

Gunmen seized two Spaniards working for Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) from Dadaab in October and are thought to have taken them to Somalia.

The kidnapping of the Spaniards was one of the incidents that spurred Kenya to send troops to fight al-Shabab.

Several regional armies are pushing against the group’s positions in Somalia, with Kenyan forces in the far south, Ethiopian soldiers in the west and African Union forces in Mogadishu, made up of troops from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti.

Source: News Agencies