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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Kenyan police arrest Somali army deserters

The Standard

March  19, 2011

Wajir police are holding three Somali soldiers who defected from the force.

The soldiers were among 2,400 Somalis trained in Isiolo who were heading back to their country via Wajir and Mandera.

The three soldiers jumped out of a convoy of about 22 lorries in Wajir town at about 9 p.m. on Thursday [17 March] and disappeared into the town.

However, the local anti terror police unit launched a manhunt and arrested them yesterday morning.

It was not clear how many soldiers defected from the force as police were not willing to disclose more information.

It was not clear what the police would do with the defectors.

North Eastern police boss Leo Nyongesa declined to comment on the matter, saying he was yet to get the full information on the arrests.

However, sources said attempts by the officers to defect was an embarrassment to the Kenyan government that wanted the soldiers passage to be a secret.

The defect lays credence to claims that some of the Somalia Transitional Federal Government [TFG] trained forces were members of the Al-Shabab militia.

On Thursday night anxiety gripped Wajir and Mandera as residents reported contingents of Somali soldiers. Tension subsided when it later emerged that they were en route to the war torn country.

The soldiers are believed to be the last batch of those training in Isiolo and Manyani.

Mr Nyongesa also declined to comment on the soldiers movement, saying he had not been furnished with complete information.

In a show of might and under the cover of darkness, lorries loaded with the Somali soldiers entered through Merti in Isiolo heading for Diif on the Kenya/Somali border. They were in a convoy of 22 lorries and escorted by the Kenya army.

They were spotted in Wajir town and Elwak in Mandera.

"They dished out biscuits and bought miraa [qat] before heading to the border towns of Diif and Dobley", said Mohammed Hussein, who runs a hotel in Wajir town.

Security has been beefed up in North Eastern and Coast following reports some Al-Shabab militia may have sneaked into the country.

The main border is officially closed and troops operating there are not allowing visitors.

Meanwhile, Commissioner of Police Mathew Iteere called on Kenyans to be vigilant in social places and in public service vehicles in the wake of the threats issued on grounds that Kenya was training Somalia government forces and also allowing the Ethiopian troops, who have teamed up with TFG soldiers, to operate from its border towns.

The group aligned to Al-Qa'idah reiterated it would attack Kenya for supporting an enemy.



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