Kenyan troops operating in the southern part of the border with Somalia estimate that they have removed the Al-Shabaab from about 50 per cent of the area.
Speaking to the press at Ishakani Military Camp, about four kilometres from the border at the tip of Kenya, Lieutenant Colonel John Maison Nkoimo said the troops are firm on the ground and remain focused on achieving their objective.
“We’re pretty sure that southwards of Burgavo, we don’t expect any hostilities,” said Lt Col Nkoimo, who is commanding the Southern Sector.
The camp at Ishakani is the launching point for troops in the Southern Sector of Operation Linda Nchi, which is being carried out in a three-pronged attack from the North at El Wak, Centre at Liboi and the South at the coast and northwards.
Ishakani is a few kilometres from Ras Kamboni, the former headquarters of the Al-Qaeda in East Africa, which was taken on Mashujaa Day.
Burgavo remains under the control of the Kenyan troops, who will then embark on the attack on the important port city of Kismayu, in a bid to strangle the Al-Shabaab economically.
Lt Col Nkoimo said the battle for Kismayu would be fought “on our own terms and at our own time”.
In Nairobi, President Kibaki for the second time warned that Kenya will not relent in its military operation against Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia.
The President said the military was determined to complete the task of eliminating the terrorist threat posed by the extremist group.
“In Kenya, we are currently dealing with a militant group based inside Somalia that has sought to destabilise not just Kenya, but the entire Horn of Africa region,” the President said when he officially opened the first Africa Congress of Accountants in Nairobi.
Addressing the nation on Mashujaa Day, the President, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces, said Kenyan troops would not relent in their pursuit of the militants inside Somalia.
Ten days ago, the Chief of General Staff General Julius Karangi also affirmed the military’s determination to complete the mission in Somalia.
On Monday, President Kibaki said that Kenya and the region in general would never find lasting peace unless the Al-Shabaab was wiped out.
“A solution to the long-standing instability is good for the Horn of Africa and indeed the entire African continent. Kenya intends to complete the work and operation we have began inside Somalia and create a strong foundation for the prosperity of the continent,” he said.
Kenyan troops are on their third week of the incursion against the Somali militants, who are accused of having links to Al-Qaeda and other Arab terrorist groups.
The offensive, dubbed Operation Linda Nchi, is aimed at weakening the insurgents besides restraining their ability to launch cross-border attacks.
Kenyan troops crossed into Somalia after the militants carried out a series of attacks within Kenya. In September, Somali gunmen abducted British tourist Judith Tebbutt, after killing her husband, David.
Two weeks later, a French tourist, Marie Dedieu, was kidnapped and was later reported dead.
Two Spanish aid workers were also kidnapped from the Dadaab refugee camp in October.
Somalia has been without a central government since 1991, when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted.
Meanwhile, the military denied reports by an Iranian news network that fifteen Kenyan soldiers had been killed in the Somali town of Tabda.
Military spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir dismissed the reports as part of a propaganda campaign waged by the militants.
Quoting sources within the Somalia government, the reports claimed that the Kenyan soldiers had been killed accidentally by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) fighters.
At the same time, religious leaders in Garissa on Monday called for calm in the wake of Saturday night’s grenade attack on a church in the town which killed two people and injured five others.
In a statement, the church leaders condemned the attack on the East Africa Pentecostal Church, saying it was a criminal act which should be dealt with by security organs.