Perhaps seeking human shields, and the propaganda potential of elevated civilian casualties, the cowards of al-Shabaab have made themselves the arbiters of other people’s “martyrdom.” “Somalis brace for Kenyan air assault,” by Abdi Sheikh and Sahra Abdi for the Associated Press, November 2:
MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Somalia braced for Kenyan air attacks on Wednesday and Islamist militants stopped civilians from fleeing at least one likely strike zone.
Kenya, which sent troops into lawless Somalia nearly three weeks ago to crush the al Shabaab militant network, said on Tuesday it planned “imminent” air raids on militant bases and warned residents to stay clear of them.
Kenya’s warning of air bombardments was prompted by reports the al Qaeda-linked militants had received two consignments of weapons, flown into the rebel-controlled town of Baidoa.
Eritrea dismissed media reports it had delivered the arms cache as “outright lies” meant to dirty its reputation.
Some 24 hours after Kenya gave its warning, there were no raids reported in the ten rebel strongholds where it had advised civilians to stay clear of insurgent bases.
“(Al Shabaab) ordered us to stay and die at the hands of Christian Kenya, to dwell in paradise,” Abdikadir Weydow, a resident of the southern town of Afmadow, told Reuters.
Afmadow, a rebel bastion and strategic transit point for contraband smuggled through rebel-controlled Kismayu port, is seen as a likely flashpoint for a confrontation between Kenyan forces and al Shabaab militants.
Kenyan and Somali government troops, as well as militia nominally allied to Somalia’s government, have set up forward positions close to Afmadow.
In many other towns, including Baardheere, Baidoa and Afgoye, many people were preparing to escape, hoping to lie low in the bush or reach the Kenyan frontier.
It speaks volumes about the situation that Somalis are fleeing toward the country dropping the bombs.
“We are determined to flee to the jungle. We cannot stay in a town which is to be bombed,” said Baardheere resident Yusuf Guled.
Others, too poor to afford the transport or encumbered by elderly relatives, were hunkering down in anticipation of an aerial assault.
Kenya’s army spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir told Reuters on Tuesday its forces would not target civilians, but warned they needed to stay away from rebel bases to avoid being caught up in the fighting….
A far cry from al-Shabaab, which freely targets civilians.