Kenyan troops armed with heavy weapons including tanks and attack helicopters entered the Kenyan–Somalia border town of El-Wak in Somalia's Gedo region on Tuesday as part of their efforts to fight al-Shabaab insurgents.
“Fighter jets and helicopters flew over hundreds of combat troops who crossed the border between the Somalia and Kenya early on Tuesday. They immediately started establishing temporary bases on the outskirts of El-Wak,“ Mohamed Abdulle, a resident in El-Wak told Somalia Report.
Mohamoud Arab, spokesman of the Transitional Federal Government forces in Gedo region, confirmed that Kenyan troops are currently deployed in El-Wak in a bid to fight against al-Shabaab.
“They are well equipped and supported by warplanes including helicopter gunships. I think that their mission is to fight and oust al-Shabaab from the region,“ the spokesman told Somalia Report.
This coincides with heavy rains in the Gedo region that military officials said could hinder their efforts at launching wider offensives against the insurgent group.
The Kenyan government sent troops to Somalia battle al-Shabaab after Somali gunmen kidnapped foreigners from Lamu and Dhadhab districts in Kenya.
Al-Shabaab officials denied they were involved the kidnappings of the foreigners from Kenya.
Officials from al-Shabaab met in Kismayo on Monday to plan their strategy to fight against the Kenyan forces entering Somalia.
Speaking at a press conference in Nairobi on Monday, Kenya Foreign Minister Moses Watangula has for the first time confirmed that Kenya troops crossed the border into Somalia to pursue the al-Shabaab militant group.
“We are not against the people and the government of Somalia but our intention is to maintain our security and tackle terrorist attacks and kidnaps by the al-Shabaab inside our country,“ said Watangula.
In written statement released on Monday by al-Shabaab, the insurgents denied the charges pertaining the kidnap of tourists and aid workers from inside Kenya.
"The allegations put forward by the Kenyan authorities with regard to the recent kidnappings are at best, unfounded, and apart from the mere conjectural corroborations, not substantiated with any verifiable evidence,” said the press release.
Sheikh Ali Mohamoud, a spokesman of al-Shabaab, warned that Kenyan troops incursion inside Somalia will lead Kenya into a wider war.
“We are experienced in war and we call on the Kenyan people not to let the flames of this war split over into their country,” he said vowing that al-Shabaab will continue its fight to territories inside Kenya.
Al-Shabaab Arrests Civilians
Meanwhile, at least 20 civilians were arrested today by al-shabaab in Afmadow town of Lower Juba region after they were accused of supporting the TFG and Kenyan forces in the region.
An eyewitness told Somalia Report that he saw well-known businessmen who were among those arrested and taken to an unknown area.
Al-Shabaab warned the community of Afmadow not to support any TFG or Kenya troops otherwise they will face consequences, according to an eyewitness who asked to be called Sharmake for security reasons.
“They arrested innocent people who are not politicians or involved in politics. They are just businessmen who struggle to take care of their families,” said Sharmake.