French navy bombards al-Shabaab militant town in Somalia


A French navy ship has bombarded a town in Somalia, becoming one of the first Western nations to assist Kenya in its cross-border push against Somalia’s al Shabaab militia.

Kenyan military spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir said that the French Navy had bombarded the town of Kuday near the al Shabaab stronghold of Kismayo on Saturday night.

A diplomat based in Kenyan told the Associated Press that France was carrying out military attacks in Somalia, something French officials in Paris denied.

Iran’s Press TV said that at least 59 people were killed and 100 injured during French military attacks on the Somali island of Kudhaa near the country’s border with Kenya, citing Somali military officer Hashi Mohamed.

Chirchir also said that “one of the partners” had carried out airstrikes over the last few days, killing a number of al Shabaab militants.

France’s bombardment marks rare Western involvement in the fight against the Islamist al Shabaab militia, although the United States has for several years been carrying out drone attacks in the country. In 2006 and 2007 the US military cooperated with Ethiopian forces when they attempted to oust an Islamic movement that had taken control of much of Somalia.

However, the US has not been involved in wider military action since it withdrew ground forces after the 1993 battle of Mogadishu that killed numerous American military personnel.

The New York Times reports that two senior American officials in Washington yesterday said that neither the US military nor the CIA had recently carried out airstrikes recently.

Kenya’s military stormed across the border last week Sunday to support Somali government troops in an attempt to secure the frontier and its hinterland. The operation follows a wave of kidnappings by suspected militants that have threatened the East African country’s multi-million dollar tourism industry.

Two weeks ago two female Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) staff were abducted in daytime from Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp, located about 80 km (50 miles) from Liboi in the third attack on Westerners in a little over a month. Somali militant groub al Shabaab has said it is not behind the abduction of the MSF staff from world’s largest refugee camp.

Keen to avoid a spillover of violence by al Qaeda-trained foreign jihadists seeking haven in Somalia as well as al Shabaab fighters entrenched in the south, Nairobi has considered creating a buffer zone along its border.

Kenya has already trained thousands of newly recruited Somali soldiers to man the frontier. It also provides logistical and intelligence support to Somali government troops and government-friendly militia.

Al Shabaab’s bloody campaign since early 2007 to topple a Somali government it sees as a stooge of the West has killed tens of thousands of people. The group wants to impose a strict version of sharia law on the nation and more hardline factions are bent on striking Somalia’s neighbours.

Kenya’s military intervention could raise the risk of a militia strike on Kenyan interests. The militants have in the past threatened attacks on Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, in retaliation for Kenya’s training and support of Somalia’s army and allied militia.