By Collins Wanzala in Nairobi, Kenya
As Kenyans get ready to usher in the New Year, the Kenyan Police force has today (Saturday December 31st) released pictures of 15 people it believes are Al-Shabaab adherents who may have infiltrated the country. Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe says the suspects who include nine Kenyans, two Asians and four Somalis aged between 24 to 32 years entered Kenya from Kismayu and urged Kenyans to report their whereabouts to the police.
Addressing the press during the weekly Operation Linda Nchi (Defend the country) press briefing at the Police headquarters in Nairobi, Kiraithe said they have information that all the 15 left Kismayu recently headed for Kenya which some are believed to be already in the country. “Most of the Kenyans are known to have resided in the Majengo area of Nairobi and Mombasa before leaving for Somalia about a year ago,” he said. At the same time said police have intensified security surveillance and patrols to ensure internal security is guaranteed as Kenyans usher in the New Year. He asked Kenyans to avoid firework displays, as they are false alarms that would confuse the security personnel in Kenya. Al-Shabaab has in the past used such festive days to mount terrorist attacks on neighbouring countries and the Kenyan army’s current operations inside Somalia make them a target for such terrorist attacks.
During the briefing, the head of communication and operations at the Department of Defense in Kenya, Col Cyrus Oguna said Operation Linda Nchi had completely disorganized Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia. He said Kenyan troops and Transitional Federal Government soldiers have cut off Al- Shabaab’s source of funding including charcoal burning. “We have destroyed Al- Shabaab’s financial arm [and] we expect members of Al -Shabaab to defect in coming days,” said Colonel Oguna.
Col Oguna said more and more Al-Shabaab militia are defecting and giving the Kenyan troops and the Transitional Federal Government soldiers information. He appealed to international aid agencies to move into Somalia to help local people who had been marginalized. On casualties, Oguna said so far six Kenyan soldiers have so far been killed in the war against Al- Shabaab. “Kenya Defence Force has lost six soldiers, 21 injured and one still missing at sea since the operation started,” he said.
Oguna said that the Kenyan military will move to the interior of Somalia even if it means getting into Mogadishu as long as they are satisfied that Al-Shabaab is no longer a threat to the East African economic power house nation, Kenya.
And President Kibaki broke his traditional style of addressing the nation in the wee hours to usher in a new year when today he addressed the nation on Television from State house, Nairobi to welcome year 2012 at 4.00 P.M East African time and congratulated the Kenyan troops in Somalia and assured Kenyans that the military were doing superb work there to eliminate Al-Shabaab militants and will only leave there after their mission is complete.
The Kenyan President said that during his term many projects had been initiated and completed and that he will be relinquishing power after the 2012 General when Kenyans vote in the President of their choice.
He said that his Government has put up good measures to ensure that the General Election is held in a free and fair way. Meanwhile the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Internal Security has confirmed that Police in Lamu, Coast Province killed 3 of the 5 bandits they spotted in Mvundeni area near Kiunga and recovered three AK 47 Rifles and several rounds of ammunition from them.
He also said that Police were in hot pursuit of a speed boat they spotted in the area and believed that it was being used by Al-Shabaab militia whom he could not confirm whether they were collaborating with the bandits or they were on their own.