Somali government accuses Kenya troops in Kismayo of backing 1 militia over others in fighting
Monday, July 01, 2013
Somalia’s government called for a neutral force in the disputed port
city of Kismayo, accusing Kenyan troops there of backing one militia
against others in ongoing fighting for control of the strategic southern
Somalia’s information ministry said late Sunday that the
country wants a “more neutral force” in the city that is home to a
contingent of militiamen and where five clan leaders have all declared
themselves president. That statement is the strongest yet from a
government whose officials have sometimes accused Kenyan forces of
taking sides in the Kismayo conflict, charges that Kenya denied on
“Kenya is there...to promote security and the rebuilding of
Somalia,” said Kenyan army spokesman Col. Cyrus Oguna. “Those
allegations are false and do not have any foundation whatsoever.”
For weeks militias have been fighting for control of Kismayo in clashes that have killed an unknown number of people.
Ashton, the European Union foreign policy chief, said in a statement
Monday that the fighting in Kismayo “appears to have caused the loss of
innocent civilian lives.” She urged “all parties to immediately refrain
from violence, exercise restraint, and let political processes be used
to resolve outstanding differences.”
Mohamed Nur, a nurse at Kismayo hospital, said at least eight people had died there following the latest clashes.
is important for Kenya, which seeks a friendly buffer zone near its
border with Somalia — one of the main reasons it sent troops to Somalia
to fight the militants of al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab in late 2011. But
the rival militias now at war there appear to be interested in the
economic engine of Kismayo. Its port generates large and reliable
income, and has been the export point of Somali-made charcoal made
illegal by the U.N.
After another round of intense fighting on
Sunday it appears that fighters from the Kenya-backed Raskamboni
brigade, led by Ahmed Madobe, had taken the upper hand over rival
militias led by former warlord Barre Hirale, according to several
Kismayo residents. That brigade did so with the help of Kenyan troops
operating in Kismayo under the banner of the African Union, according to
Abdishakur Ali Mire, Somalia’s deputy information minister.
who is supported by Kenya, is the leader of the Raskamboni brigade,
which fought alongside Kenyan forces who took Kismayo from al-Shabab. He
is a key power broker around Kismayo, although he is not backed by the
federal government in the capital, Mogadishu. Madobe formed a local
administration without giving much of a role to the central Somali
government and was named president of the body. Adding to the chaos,
four other clan leaders also have declared themselves the president of
the region, though none is supported by Mogadishu.
by Mire, the Somali government minister, accused AMISOM Section Two —a
contingent of African Union forces operating in Kismayo— of launching “a
targeted offensive against civilians” and of arresting Col. Abbas
Ibrahim Gure, a Somali army official sent to Kismayo by the central
Troops from the West African nation of Sierra Leone
are part of the contingent that includes the Kenyans, but they are not
involved in ongoing fighting, according to Somali government officials.
analysts say fighting in Kismayo is distracting from the main goal of
fighting al-Shabab, who still launch lethal terrorist attacks even in
“It’s a dangerous distraction for the effort to fight
al-Shabab not only for the government but for AMISOM,” said Mohamed
Sheikh Abdi, an independent political analyst in Mogadishu.
Associated Press writer Tom Odula in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report.