* Somali president had cast doubt on support for mission
* PM now liaising with Nairobi on operations
By Mohamed Ahmed
MOGADISHU, Oct 27 (Reuters) - Kenya has every right to pursue al Shabaab
rebels in Somalia, but Somali government troops must be in charge of
operations against the Islamist rebels, Somalia's prime minister said.
Kenya deployed troops inside the anarchic Horn of Africa nation 12-days ago
in an offensive against al Shabaab fighters it blames for a series of
kidnappings on its soil and frequent cross-border incursions. ID:nL5E7LG0KF]
Somalia's president cast doubt on his government's support for the incursion
on Monday. On Wednesday, Mogadishu reiterated there was no deal with Kenya
to send in its troops, but said the prime minister would now liaise with
"We support Kenya's operation inside Somalia because they support, train and
provide other military support to our troops to defeat al Shabaab and we are
very grateful to Kenya," Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said in an
"But we have to understand one thing: Somalia has the lead, our military has
the lead in all operations taking place inside Somalia," he said late on
The Somali government has so far stopped short of asking Kenyan troops to
leave and the prime minister's comments show the authorities appear to
accept the incursion, which has the backing of Western allies supporting the
"My government supports any self defence action Kenya takes against al
Shabaab. Al Shabaab has inflicted a negative economic impact on Kenya," the
prime minister said.
"Kenya has suffered at the hands of al Shabaab who are Somali terrorists
crossing from the Somali border to the Kenyan border. So, therefore, Kenya
has the right to pursue them inside Somali and defeat them," he said.
East Africa's biggest economy has long watched its anarchic neighbour warily
and its troops have made forays across the porous border in the past, but
this month's assault marks the first concerted push to drive the rebels away
from the frontier.
The recent kidnappings of Western tourists and aid workers from Kenya soil
risk denting the country's lucrative tourist industry and hampering
humanitarian support for more than 400,000 Somalis at a refugee camp in
Al Shabaab has denied it is behind the kidnappings, saying they are being
used as a pretext by Kenya to send its troops across the border.
Kenyan troops are advancing on several fronts towards al Shabaab strongholds
alongside Somali government soldiers and allied militias in the region.
The Kenyan troops have taken several towns but have not yet had a major
showdown with al Shabaab fighters, who are regrouping and bolstering
defences at strategic points in the south of the Horn of Africa nation.
Kenya continued to deploy more troops to Somalia on Wednesday. Trucks laden
with weapons, military and police officers from the capital and camps in
central and northern Kenya were seen heading towards Somalia. (Additional
reporting by Noor Ali in Isiolo, Kenya; Editing by David Clarke)
C Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved
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Received on Thu Oct 27 2011 - 15:03:39 EDT