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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

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NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers carry the bodies of the Kenyan soldiers killed by Al Shabaab, at the Wilson Airport in Nairobi.  The bodies were received in the presence of Kenyan Defence Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo who noted that full details of those injured and killed in the attack would be made public after families of the affected soldiers have been notified. XINHUA PHOTOS - JOHN OKOYO and SIMBI KUSIMBA

Kenyans join with military in mourning soldiers killed in Somalia

by Bedah Mengo and Chrispinus Omar NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The terror attack on Kenya’s soldiers in Somalia by Al-Qaida linked terror group Al-Shabaab has galvanised the country behind their security officers.

For the first time in a long-time, the country has united to rally behind the military personnel who put their lives on the line to keep citizens safe.

Unknown number of soldiers was killed in the Friday dawn attack in El-Adde, southern Somalia and others taken hostage by the militants.

While full information about the casualties remains scanty, the gravity of the attack has reverberated across the East African nation.

From hamlets to the capital Nairobi, Kenyans are shouting, "I stand with Kenya Defence Forces (KDF)", a line that captures their feelings towards the fallen heroes.

"I strongly condemn the Al-Shabaab attack. No soldier deserves to die especially when trying to bring peace.

"My prayers with troops and their families.

"We will surely beat terrorism," said Timothy Omondi, an accountant on Monday.

"God certainly will comfort families of slayed soldiers as we mourn.

"You died defending us, your work is not in vain," said Joan Tarei.

"These are sons, fathers, husbands and brothers of someone.

"We will never forget you.

"We stand by you as you stood by us protecting the country," noted Maina Nyambura.

On social media, the hash tag "#63 is just not a number" has been trending in the East African nation, with Kenyans using it to pour support to the fallen soldiers and the military in general.

Memes have also been made and widely circulated on the internet in support of families of soldiers killed and those abducted.

"We stand with families that lost their loved ones who were fighting for the peace of our country # I stand with KDF," said Brian Moseto.

"I #stand with KDF...names and numbers of fallen heroes don’t count, our enemies will remain defeated," Njaramba Mwaniki noted.

James Mbaru said, "They died protecting our lives and country.

"May their families find the peace to endure the loss. # I stand with KDF."

As a sign of solidarity with the military, Kenyans have refrained from circulating on social media images of the soldiers killed in the attack.

This is a departure from the past where such images, distributed by the Al-Shabaab propaganda team, would be shared to millions.

"It is a sign of maturity and the feeling of the pain families of the soldiers have to endure as they wait to know the fate of their loved ones.

"Kenyans did it during the Westgate attack, the Garissa attack and the Mpeketoni attack abusing the internet, but this time, I say thank you to all social media users," said Bernard Mwaso, a software developer with Edell IT Solution in Nairobi.

While there was a stern warning from the Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaiserry against sharing the images which glorify acts of terrorism, Mwaso believed the caution alone could not have deterred the sharing.

"Kenyans have come to the realisation that the country is at war, and, thus, it is not only our soldiers who are fighting in Somalia.

"Sharing the images aids the enemy," said Mwaso.

Defence Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo said the militants used three vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED) to attack Kenyan soldiers numbering between 80 and 150 at their camp.

"The soldiers affected by the attack are a company size force.

"The operation area remains dangerous, volatile and fluid and soldiers still remain at risk," Omamo told journalists on Sunday.

She said search, rescue and recovery operations have been ongoing since the attack and will continue until all soldiers have been recovered.

She vowed that the pre-dawn attack on Friday, the first daring one since Kenya launched crossed border incursion in Somalia in 2011, will not rest unanswered.

"We have responded, we have engaged the perpetrators decisively and remain in full pursuit of them," she said.

"This atrocious terror attack, though extremely painful to us as nation, will not dampen the determination of our soldiers in the fight against terrorism. On the contrary, the attack services to strengthen their resolve in the face of terror and in the defense of our nation," Omamo affirmed.

She spoke as the four wounded Kenyan soldiers were airlifted home amid claims by Al-Shabaab the number of dead Kenyan troops had risen to 100. Xinhua could however verify that figure.

Al-Shabaab frequently exaggerates the number of troops/civilians they massacre, while African Union mission (AMISOM) rarely gives exact tolls.

But Kenya’s Chief of Defense Samson Mwathethe has warned that Kenyan soldiers would be ruthless in their retaliatory attacks.

"We will fight them deep in their hideouts, we will smoke them out of their caves and we will follow them to the end in honour of every drop of blood Kenya has shed," Mwathethe added.
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UPDATE:

European Union says terrorists won’t deter efforts to stabilize Somalia

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The European Union has condemned the Friday attack on Africa Union base in southern Somalia by Al-Shabaab, saying such attacks will not prevent the world with its efforts to stabilize the Horn of Africa nation.

In a statement issued in Nairobi, the EU said it will continue working with the Somali authorities, the African Union and other partners to enhance stability and Somalia’s capacity to fight terrorism.

"Friday’s lethal attack by Al-Shabaab against an African Union base in southern Somalia is another attempt to undermine a political process towards a stable and secure Somalia and a population desiring a life in peace," the EU said.

The EU expressed its condolences to the victims and their families in Somalia and in Kenya who were killed, captured or injured during the attack on Friday.

The EU said it’s a staunch supporter of AMISOM and the Somali security forces who provide the necessary security for any of the key political processes to be sustainably achieved in Somalia.

"Acts of terrorism will not deter our efforts. The EU will continue working with the Somali authorities, the AU and other partners to enhance stability and Somalia’s capacity to fight terrorism," the EU said.

The statement comes as Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) troops are shelling El-Adde with bombs hitting centers of the town.

Residents could see smoke billowing from the military base which was attacked by the militants on Friday.

Sources said Al-Shabaab withdrew its militants from El-Adde overnight and the town is almost empty.

Both the Somali National Army and KDF serving under AU mission in Somalia are carrying out an operation in and outside El-Adde in Gedo region.

Colonel Abbas Ibrahim, Somali National Army Commander in Gedo region said the forces are hunting Al-Shabaab militants and called on residents who had fled the town to return to their homes.

"We are in El-Adde neighborhood. The troops are working together to fight against Al-Shabaab, we are still collecting the information of the extent of casualties, Kenyan soldiers, some Somali soldiers and civilians were among the dead in the attack on Friday," Abbas told Xinhua.

The insurgents have claimed to have killed 100 Kenyan soldiers and captured 12 others in the pre-dawn attack which has been described as the most daring incident since KDF launched cross border incursion in 2011.

Two of the alleged soldiers spoke to Al-Shabaab’s Radio Andolus and demanded Kenyan government and AU to facilitate their release.

Abdi Mohamud Abdulle, El-Adde resident said there is a humanitarian crisis in the area as the displaced people lack food and water.

"All the residents in El-Adde were evacuated after the attack, I was the last one who remained and I left the place from this morning. I prayed alone in the biggest mosque in the area, people are dying of thirst and hunger.

"We had a drought in the region, but the attack worsened the situation," Mohammed said.
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EARLIER REPORTS:

Somalia determined to step up fights to eliminate Al-Shabaab

MOGADISHU (Xinhua) -- Somalia has vowed to step up efforts to eliminate Islamist group Al-Shabaab following last Friday’s attack on an African Union (AU) army base in its southern Gedo region.

Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke on Monday said the attacks by "remnants of Al-Shabaab" would not prevent the government from eradicating the group.

"Evidently the terrorist group is faced with mounting pressure in their small hideaway pockets which is a result of the well planned military operations carried out by the Somali National Army and the AMISOM (AU Mission in Somalia) troops," Sharmake said in a statement issued in Mogadishu.

Al-Shabaab claims to have killed 100 Kenyan soldiers and captured 12 others in the attack. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta confirmed his country lost soldiers but the exact number of casualties is not yet known.

Thirty-four Kenyan soldiers injured in the attack have been flown home for treatment.

"I would like to extend my sincere condolences to the families of the gallant soldiers who lost their lives, and to the people and government of Kenya," Sharmake said.

He said the Somali and AU troops have intensified ground and air operations in El-Adde where the attack took place.

The attack is described as the worst since Kenya sent its troops to battle Al-Shabaab in southern Somalia in 2011.

Al-Shabaab usually exaggerates the death toll of their attacks, while AMISOM rarely gives the exact numbers.
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Kenya flies home 30 more injured soldiers in Somalia attack

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya on Monday airlifted 30 more soldiers injured in an Al-Shabaab attack in Somalia back to the capital Nairobi for treatment.

The soldiers are part of the African Union force battling Islamist group Al-Shabaab. Their camp in El-Adde, southern Somalia was attacked by the militants last Friday.

Four injured soldiers were flown back on Sunday. The authorities have set up 24-hour helplines for the families and friends of the injured soldiers.

Defence Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo who received the soldiers said Kenyan soldiers would not be withdrawn from Somalia "until they defeat Al-Shabaab".

Al-Shabaab claims to have killed 100 Kenyan soldiers in the attack.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta confirmed his country lost soldiers but the official figures are yet to be released.

Omamo said the first batch of the soldiers’ remains would be flown back in the evening.

A group of springboks are seen this week in Jwana Game Park  | Coastweek

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers carry the bodies of the Kenyan soldiers killed by Al Shabaab, at the Wilson Airport in Nairobi. The first batch of bodies of the KDF soldiers killed in Somalia’s El Adde region were received on Monday.  XINHUA PHOTOS - JOHN OKOYO and SIMBI KUSIMBA

             

 

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