(Updates with report of air strikes in third paragraph.)
Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Somalia’s militant Islamist group al-Shabaab vowed to defeat Kenyan forces that intervened in the southern part of the country after Somali gunmen kidnapped tourists and aid workers.
“We prepared special troops to fight against the Kenyan invaders who illegally crossed Somalia’s border,” al-Shabaab’s military spokesman, Sheikh Abdi Aziz Abu Musab, said in recorded comments on Radio al-Furqaan. “We will teach them unforgettable lessons.”
Kenyan forces carried out “continuous” air strikes against al-Shabaab positions today, while heavy rains slowed the advance of ground troops, Kenya’s defense department spokesman, Emmanuel Chirchir, said by phone from the border area.
Kenya sent troops to Somalia on Oct. 16 after officials blamed the kidnappings on al-Shabaab, which has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda. Marie Dedieu, a 66-year-old disabled French woman who was abducted from a house near the northern Kenyan town of Lamu by Somali gunmen on Oct. 1, has probably died, the French Foreign Ministry said yesterday.
Somalia, on Kenya’s northeastern border, hasn’t had a functioning government since the 1991 overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. Al-Shabaab, which has waged a four-year campaign to remove the transitional administration, controls most of southern and central Somalia.
“We will defend our territorial integrity through all measures necessary to ensure peace and stability,” Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said today in a speech at Heroes Day celebrations in Nairobi, the capital. “Our security forces have begun operations within and outside of our borders against militants who have sought to destabilize our country.”
Briton Judith Tebbutt was kidnapped by Somali gunmen who killed her husband, David Tebbutt, the finance director of London-based book publisher Faber & Faber, on Sept. 11 at a resort on Kiwayu island, 503 kilometers (313 miles) southeast of Nairobi.
Somali government troops and forces from the 9,000-member African Union peacekeeping mission battled today to take one of al-Shabaab’s last strongholds in the capital, Mogadishu, an army commander, Colonel Abdi Nasir Doode, said by phone.
“We advanced into Dayniile district today and we are on the verge of capturing it completely,” Doode said.
Al-Shabaab withdrew most of its forces from Mogadishu in August, saying it would wage a guerrilla campaign against Sheikh Sharfi Sheikh Ahmed’s government.
“We will face the Kenyan invaders and will overrun them with God’s will, as we did with the American and Ethiopian invaders,” Abu Musab, al-Shabaab’s military spokesman, said.
The U.S. concluded a two-year mission in Somalia, “Operation Restore Hope,” which involved as many as 33,000 U.S. and United Nations soldiers, after the downing of two American helicopters in Mogadishu in October 1994, an incident made famous by Mark Bowden’s book “Black Hawk Down.”
Forces from neighboring Ethiopia withdrew in January 2009 after a two-year campaign that ousted the Islamic Courts Union government and later became bogged down in a guerrilla war with the Islamic militias.
--With assistance from Eric Ombok in Nairobi. Editors: Karl Maier, Ben Holland
To contact the reporter on this story: Hamsa Omar in Mogadishu via Nairobi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at email@example.com