Residents of 10 Somali towns have been warned by Kenya’s military to expect to be “under attack continuously” as Kenya moves forward with its intervention in its lawless neighboring Horn of Africa nation, Reuters news agency reported Tuesday.
Kenyan military spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir said on his Twitter account that anyone with relatives and friends in the towns, which included Baidoa, the port city of Kismayu and Afgoye, should be advising them accordingly.
Kenya dispatched troops to Somalia last month in an attempt to quash the Somali Islamist militia the Shabab, which it blames for a spate of kidnappings of foreigners on Kenyan soil and frequent attacks on its defense forces along the countries’ shared border.
The warning to residents of the Somali towns came the same day as Somali militants ambushed a Kenyan military convoy, according to Reuters. Several Shabab fighters were killed during a gun battle, and three Kenyan soldiers wounded, the news agency reported, citing Kenyan security sources.
The commander of Kenya's defense forces has said that his troops will remain in Somalia until the threat from the Shabab is eliminated and Kenyans feel safe. The operation has been dubbed Linda Nchi, meaning "Protect the Nation" in Swahili, a national language of Kenya.
The fact that the warning of continued attacks has gone out to towns beyond the southern part of Somalia where Kenyan troops are advancing suggests that those forces may step up airstrikes on areas where Shabab rebels are known to have strongholds, Reuters said.
Kismayu, the port city, is considered to be one such stronghold. Other towns listed by the Kenyan military include Buale, Afmadow, Baar Dheere, Dinsoor and the southern town of Jilib. The news agency did not identify the remaining two towns.
On Sunday in Jilib, five Somalis fleeing famine were killed and dozens more injured at a displaced persons camp when Kenyan forces bombed the camp, according to reports from the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders.
-- Ann M. Simmons in Los Angeles
Photo: Kenyan demonstrators hold signs as they march during a rally in Nairobi on Oct. 28, 2011, in support of Kenya's military incursion inside Somalia. Credit: Simon Maina / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images