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Kenya government steps up security patrols at
Somalia border after arrests of terror suspects

GARISSA (Xinhua) -- Kenyan security forces have intensified patrols along the border with Somalia as hunt for individuals involved in the Jan. 15 attack at a Nairobi business complex gathers steam.

The authorities said on Sunday that a multi-agency security team has been deployed along the Kenya-Somalia border to ward off intrusion by al-Shabab militants who carried out the attack at a hotel and business complex in Nairobi where 21 people lost their lives.

Mohamed Birik, North Eastern regional commissioner, told reporters on Sunday that deployment of additional security personnel along the common frontier coupled with a swoop in the expansive Dadaab refugee camp aims to neutralize any terror threat.

"We will not relent in our effort to secure the country.

"We will go for the terrorists and smoke them from their hideouts.

"However this can only be achieved through cooperation by residents volunteering information to the security apparatus," said Birik.

He said the current operation going on in Dadaab refugee complex that hosts mainly displaced Somalis has yielded fruit since it had led to the arrest of several terror suspects and recovery of some weapons and ammunitions.

Birik revealed that two foreigners who were among the 12 terror suspects arrested last week in a police swoop in the refugee camp are still being interrogated.

According to him, the two were holding Ethiopian and Switzerland passport that had expired visas.

He said the duo gave conflicting information during interrogation on among other issues why they had not renewed their visas.

"We want to dig deeper and establish their motive, whom they were working with and where they were destined to," said Birik.

He said the anti-terror police in Garissa have also sought 10 extra days from the court to probe the suspects and gather crucial leads in planning and execution of terrorist attacks in Kenya by Somalia-based militant group al-Shabab.

Birik said security checks have been enhanced on public and private vehicles plying the major roads in northeastern Kenya and those destined for Nairobi.


Kenya approves construction of counter-explosive center to curb attacks

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s cabinet on Thursday approved the establishment of a counter-explosive device center in Nairobi to help fight against terrorism in the East African nation.

The cabinet meeting, which was chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta, said Germany has offered to donate 207 million Kenyan shillings (about 2.07 million U.S. dollars) for the construction of the counter-improvised explosive device center (C-IED Center) in Nairobi.

"The C-IED Center is deemed useful especially during the period that the KDF (Kenya Defense Forces) will remain in Somalia where IEDs are often used by the al-Shabab," the cabinet said in a statement issued after the meeting.

It said the C-IED Center, which will be a constituent college of the International Peace Support Training Center, will equip the Kenya Defense Forces personnel with the knowledge and technology to robustly detect and safely disarm IEDs.

The Kenyan police said al-Shabab militants have changed tactics and resorted to using improvised explosive devices to carry out attacks across the country.

Two killed in car bombing in southern Somalia: military

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- Two people were killed and two others were injured in a blast in a government controlled town of Bardhere in Somalia’s southern region of Gedo on Saturday, according to military officials.

A military officer who asked anonymity told Xinhua that a car filled with explosives detonated near Ethiopian military base in Bardhere town in Somalia’s southern region of Gedo, resulting in the death of two people nearby and injuring two others.

"The car exploded when the soldiers at the base stopped it and we can confirm that two people were killed in the blast," the military officer said.

He added that the soldiers had managed to foil the militants’ attempt to reach their target. Residents said they heard a rocky blast in the area which is near the border with Kenya.

"We heard a huge blast and learnt that a military base was hit by a car bomb but we don’t know additional information," Fahmo Haji, a resident, told Xinhua.

The attack came after Somali national forces are conducting major operations against al-Shabab in central and southern Somalia.

Al-Qaida affiliated group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the blast, saying its fighters carried out a suicide car bomb attack in the town, killing at least 16 Ethiopian soldiers.

The terrorist group said in a statement posted on its affiliated websites that the bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle at a military base belonging to Ethiopian troops.

Independent sources said some of the Ethiopian soldiers including two civilians died in the blast.

The attack barely a month after the terrorist group said that their fighters killed 57 Ethiopian troops in an ambush near Burhakaba town in southwest Somalia on Jan. 18.

The terrorist group continues to hold parts of the country’s south and central regions after being chased out of Mogadishu several years ago.

Somali and African Union peacekeeping forces have also intensified military operations against the insurgents, flushing them in their Lower and Middle Shabelle region bases as part of efforts to stabilize the Horn of Africa nation.

African Union to pull out 1,000 troops from Somalia’ HirShabelle in February

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) said it is expected to draw down soldiers by 1,000 this month in Somalia’s HirShabelle State, where Burundi troops operating under AMISOM now have their main base in Jowhar, the capital of HirShabelle.

According to a statement issued by AMISOM on Sunday, Francisco Madeira, head of AMISOM, held talks with HirShabelle State president Mohamed Abdi Waare on the planned cutback in troops from Burundi on Saturday evening.

"We have been discussing with President Waare on how we can implement the transition plan in a manner that still ensures security in his state," Madeira said in the statement.

According to a United Nations Security Council resolution in July 2018, AMISOM will need to reduce the level of uniformed personnel to 20,626 by Feb. 28, 2019, without "any further delay."

"The transition plan is finally becoming a reality and there are painful decisions that have to be taken," Waare said in the statement.

He expressed concern that if hurriedly implemented, the troops’ drawdown would leave his state vulnerable to attacks.

Waare said there is still work to be done to ensure successful implementation of the transition plan, adding that HirShabelle State will closely work with AMISOM to ensure gains made in stabilizing the country are not eroded.

United States army kills 13 al-Shabab militants in southern Somalia

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- The United States army said on Saturday evening that its forces conducted an airstrike in southern Somalia on Friday, killing 13 al-Shabab terrorists.

The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a statement that no civilians were injured or killed in the strike which targeted al-Shabab fighters in the vicinity of Gandarshe in Lower Shebelle region.

According to the statement, the extremist group has previously used Gandarshe, about 48 km southwest of Mogadishu, as a staging area for attacks including vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices that threaten the capital and its residents.

On Dec. 15 and 16, 2018, six U.S. airstrikes killed 62 al-Shabab militants near Gandarshe, who according to AFRICOM were preparing for an attack on a Somali government military base in the region, and on Wednesday a U.S. airstrike killed 24 militants in neighboring Hiran region.

The U.S. strikes have largely targeted al-Shabab figureheads based in southern and central Somalia where the group still maintains a strong grip in some areas.

United States military kills 24 al-Shabab militants in central Somalia

MOGADISHU United States (Xinhua) -- The United States military said Thursday its forces conducted an airstrike near a terrorist encampment in central Somalia on Wednesday, killing 24 al-Shabab terrorists.

The U.S. Africa Command (Africom) said the precision airstrike at the vicinity of Shebeeley, Hiran region is part of a larger effort to support the Somali forces as it increases pressure on the terrorist network and its’ recruiting efforts in the region.

"Precision strikes are part of our strategy. Strikes continue to help our partners make progress in their fight against the transnational terrorists who oppose peace in Somalia and in the region," Gregg Olson, Africom’s director of operations, said in a statement.

Olson said the Somali National Army (SNA) and its partners will continue to effectively target terrorist training camps and assessed safe havens in order to deny al-Shabab the ability to build capacity and attack the people of Somalia.

"At this time, it was assessed no civilians were injured or killed in this airstrike," said Africom which oversees American troops on the African continent.

The U.S. strikes have largely targeted al-Shabab figureheads based in southern and central Somalia where the group still maintains a strong grip.

The extremists have recently increased their attacks against Africa Union and Somali forces especially in Mogadishu, targeting their bases, hotels and other public places.


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