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Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces and pro-government militias of Ras Kamboni, getting support from the Kenyan Air Force, seized Qoqani district in Somalia’s Lower Juba region after the al-Shabaab insurgent group deserted the district on Saturday.
The government forces are now based in Qoqani’s police station in the centre of the district as well as three other bases on the outskirts.
According to a TFG military officer in Qoqani, Mohamed Hassan Bule, two helicopters belonging to Kenya shelled al-Shabaab bases in Qoqani early Saturday, which forced the militia to pull their fighters from the district.
“Thanks to Allah, we are in Qoqani. The terrorists ran away from here after the helicopters of friendly nations shelled their bases this morning. We have information they are heading to Afmadow carrying their casualties,” he told Somalia Report.
“A large number of people came out into the streets to welcome us. People are very happy to see Somali National Forces after years of colonization by the insurgents,” he added.
Six bodies of al-Shabaab fighters were seen on the outskirts of Qoqani, according to the TFG officer.
Kenya Declares War on Al-Shabaab
On Saturday, Kenyan Internal Security Minister George Saitoti and Defense Minister Yusuf Mohamed Haji held a press conference in Nairobi and accused al-Shabaab of orchestrating eight kidnappings in Kenya and declared war against the group.
“Our territorial integrity is threatened with serious threats of terrorism. We cannot allow this to happen. We are now going pursue al-Shabaab wherever they will be, even in their country,” Saitoti said.
“If you are attacked by an enemy, you are allowed to pursue that enemy until you get him. We will force them far away from our border,” the defense minister told local media.
A witness reported that Kenyan soldiers and vehicles have crossed into Somalia’s Lower Juba region and are now in Taabta village, 60km from the Somali-Kenyan border.
“Kenyan troops and Transitional Federal Government troops were arrived here today. It is the first time that Kenyan troops have been here and there are at least 500 of them. The Kenyan soldiers brought at least 30 vehicles,” Mohamed Ahmed a witness in Taabta village told Somalia Report by phone.
On Thursday, suspected al-Shabaab militias kidnapped two female Spanish Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF), aid workers from the overcrowded Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, which forced Kenya government to seal its borders and declare war against al-Shabaab.