President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday declared that Kenya would not be cowed by terrorists as Kenya Defence Forces mounted a counter-offensive strike against Al-Shabaab bases in Somalia.
Although the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Samson Mwathethe, described the counter-attack as “a delicate operation”, military planes conducted air strikes against Al-Shabaab while on the ground, tactical units used armoured vehicles to hit the terrorists’ camps in retaliation for the Friday dawn raid against a KDF camp in El-Adde, Somalia.
“We shall defend our country by all means and we will unite with other countries in the region to defeat these terrorists,” the President warned.
“We shall defend our country and we will unite as a region, fight and defeat them to ensure we live in peace.”
He asked Kenyans to support the military campaign in Somalia.
“We need to give them our full support because it is through their sacrifice and selflessness that we are able to enjoy the current peace and development,” he said.
“Without the work they are doing (in Somalia) there cannot be development,” the President said.
And speaking in Nairobi after receiving another group of soldiers who were injured in the Friday attack, Gen Mwathethe said the ongoing operation was a cautious undertaking because the military believes there are several Kenyan soldiers being held captive.
“We have information to the effect that some soldiers are being used as human shields,” he said.
Besides the bombing of Al-Shabaab bases, KDF soldiers were also engaged in a search and rescue mission, which entered its fourth day on Monday.
The aim of the mission to find missing or injured Kenyan soldiers and repatriate them to safety.
The operation was also aimed at recovering bodies of those who died in combat.
By Monday, 30 soldiers who survived the Friday attack had been transferred to Nairobi.
“This morning another group of heroes have returned. They have no physical injuries but are exhausted because of the ordeal they went through,” said Defence Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo at Wilson Airport in Nairobi Monday after receiving 16 survivors who arrived aboard a Kenya Airforce plane at noon.
Four others who were injured arrived on Sunday at noon while another group was flown in later that evening.
Gen Mwathethe, Army Commander Leonard Ngondi and Air Force Commander Samuel Thuita were also at the airport to receive the soldiers on Monday.
HIDING IN THE BUSH
Except one soldier who walked out of the plane with a slight limp, the rest looked fit.
Some emerged from the plane while still carrying their rifles.
Among the survivors were those who endured long walks to the border where they were received in other KDF camps.
There are others who were still hiding in bushes but had sent signals that they are still alive and were waiting to be picked and flown to Kenya.
Ms Omamo said that the number of the soldiers killed would be made public once the operation ended.
Bodies of those killed in battle were expected in Nairobi Monday evening.