Kenyan archbishop backs military action against Somali militia

.- The Catholic Archbishop of Mombassa has supported Kenyan military efforts to counter the Al-Shabaab militia in Somalia, but he advises a prudent response.

“We have a responsibility to defend ourselves, hence I support the troops getting into Somalia,” Archbishop Boniface Lele told the Catholic Information Service for Africa on Oct. 18.

Kenya publicly declared an attack on Al-Shabaab Oct. 16, two days after armed militants kidnapped two Spanish aid workers with the group Doctors without Borders from the Dadaab refugee camp, which houses almost 500,000 Somalis.

On Oct. 1, Somali gunmen took a  wheelchair-bound Frenchwoman from her home near the resort town of Lamu.

Somali insurgents said Kenya should immediately withdraw from Somalia or face a “bloody war.” They charged that the allegations that they posed a significant threat were a pretext for the military incursion. They accused Kenya of forcibly recruiting refugees and training militia along the border for several years and of interfering in Somalia’s internal and external affairs.

They warned the Kenyan public that the decision to send Kenyan troops across the border will not be without severe repercussions. The group also denied all charges relating to the kidnapping of tourists and aid workers from Kenya.

On Oct. 18 Somali militants prepared to defend the southern Somalia town of Afmadow from advancing Kenyan and Somali government troops. A suicide car bomb killed six people in the capital of Mogadishu during a visit by a Kenyan minister.

The incursion of Kenyan troops could invite reprisals, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia David Shinn told Reuters.

The military conflict comes during a massive drought and hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa. Millions of people have been displaced and are in need of emergency assistance.

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