by Gerry Emmett
Reportedly backed by French and U.S. air strikes, Kenyan troops entered south Somalia to attack positions of the Islamist al-Shabaab militia which controls much of the region. Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces and allied militias have also taken part. They aim to attack Kismayu, a coastal city controlled by al-Shabaab. Kenya blames the group for recent cross-border kidnappings and firefights.
The al-Shabaab are notorious for their cruelties against women, aid workers and traditional African elders. They have even outlawed the centuries-old staple food, the sambuza (samosa), claiming its triangle shape is a reference to the Christian trinity.
Despite recent losses they are still estimated to control over 10,000 fighters. Kismayu is a center of their power and finances, and they will be unlikely to give it up without a fight.
Coupled with some U.S. forces being sent to Uganda, ostensibly aimed at the equally insane Christian terrorist group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, this has escalated direct involvement in East African conflicts to a new level which should be closely watched.