Kenya’s navy has sunk two boats carrying suspected al Shabaab militants off the coast of Somalia as it continues its fight against Somali militants.
Kenya’s military spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir said that the Kenyan navy had sunk another suspected al Shabaab boat on November 4. “The Kenya Navy while on patrol duties sank a boat in the area of Ras Kiamboni,” he said in a statement. The attack occurred at 2:00 in the morning.
“The boat was challenged to stop for identification but continued to approach the Kenya Navy at high speed. Consequently they were fired at,” Chirchir added. He said the boat was operating on a no-go zone. “We wish to reiterate that the Kenya– Somalia border is still closed and that any maritime operations in these areas are banned,” the Kenyan defence ministry said in a statement.
Kenyan fishermen have been concerned that the navy may mistake them for pirates or militants and some Kenyan civilians allege that the ‘militants’ killed were Kenyan fishermen.
Earlier this month Chirchir posted a video showing the Kenyan Navy destroying a suspected al Shabaab skiff, killing 18 militants in the process.
“A skiff laden with 18 Al Shabaab fighters was transporting fuel to Kuday. The Kenya Navy intercepted the skiff and sunk it killing all the militants,” Chirchir said in a statement.
According to Somalia Report, the boat was destroyed in the Indian Ocean near Kudhaa Island in Somalia’s Lower Juba region on November 2. Local fishermen said they saw a commercial boat explode and burn near the coast.
The Somali Report said that a senior Somali Transitional Federal Government official said that at least 14 militants were killed in the attack.
Kenya mounted an air and ground offensive against al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab in Somalia more than three weeks ago after a string of kidnappings and cross-border raids it blamed on the group.
While there has been little major ground combat within Somalia since Kenya forces entered the Horn of Africa nation, Kenyan authorities and al Shabaab fighters have claimed successes in attacks either side of the border.
Al Shabaab fighters attacked a Kenyan police station near the border town of El Wak late on Monday, said Kenyan police, Somali government forces and residents.
Mahmoud Ali Shire, commander of Somali government troops fighting alongside Kenyan forces, told Reuters two al Shabaab fighters had been killed in the gun battle.
Further to the south, gunmen attacked a Kenyan government vehicle ferrying exam papers to the border town of Liboi.
Monday’s incidents were the latest in a string of low-level but persistent attacks on north-east Kenya. Two people were killed in a grenade attack in the military town of Garissa on Saturday.
A U.N. aid convoy also struck a landmine that failed to detonate in the Dadaab refugee camp, the world’s largest, where 400,000 Somalis are living after fleeing violence and famine in their own country.
Thousands there demonstrated on Tuesday against al Shabaab and in support of Kenya’s military action.
Kenya is the latest country to entangle itself in the affairs of its anarchic neighbour which has suffered two decades of civil war. Kenya has long cast a wary eye at its lawless neighbour, awash with weapons and mired in conflict since the overthrow of a dictator in 1991.
The region’s biggest economy is so worried by the anarchy in Somalia, where first warlords then Islamist insurgents have stepped into a political vacuum, that it has quietly supported the birth of a semi-autonomous Somali province dubbed ‘Jubaland’, comprising the three Somali regions bordering Kenya.
The status of Jubaland, also sometimes called Azania, is not clear. Somalia’s government says it does not support the Jubaland initiative.
Kenya’s military has denied its incursion was carefully planned for years with a view to annexing Somali territory that could act as a buffer zone between the two countries.
The military says it wants to eliminate the threat of al Shabaab, which has hit Kenya’s crucial tourist industry, and help the Western-backed Mogadishu government which has been fighting the militants since 2007.
Kenya’s military has vowed to launch more air strikes on al Shabaab’s bases in southern and central Somalia, especially after reports that weapons consignments from Eritrea had reached an al Shabaab base there last week.
Eritrea strongly denies the allegations.