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Kenyan Troops Advance in Somalia, Pursuing Al-Shabab


Kenyan forces have entered a second part of southern Somalia as part of operations against militant group al-Shabab.

Officials and witnesses confirmed to VOA Somali Service Tuesday that Kenyan troops, backed by helicopters, moved through the border town of El-Waq on Monday and are now in Somalia's Gedo region.

Kenyan troops have also been seen near the al-Shabab-controlled town of Afmadow in the Jubba region. Residents are reported to be fleeing the town in fear of a battle.

A Somali journalist tells VOA that the Kenyans are being slowed down by heavy rains that come after months of extreme drought in southern Somalia.

Kenya's Defense Minister Mohammed Yusuf Haji and Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula came to the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Tuesday for talks with government officials.

A suicide car bomb near the foreign ministry killed the bomber and at least three other people. There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

Kenya sent troops across the border into Somalia over the weekend, in what it called a "pursuit operation" against al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab.

Kenyan officials blame al-Shabab for the death of one tourist and the kidnapping of four others on Kenyan territory.

Al-Shabab has denied responsibility for the abductions, and warned Monday that it would attack targets in Kenya unless the government withdraws its troops from Somali territory.

The exact size of the Kenyan force in Somalia is not clear. Residents have reported seeing columns of 30 to 40 armored vehicles.

Al-Shabab is calling on all Somalis to defend against what it calls "the enemy."

The last country to invade Somalia was Ethiopia, which deployed troops in 2006 to oust Islamist militants who had briefly taken over the capital. Al-Shabab emerged as the main group fighting the Ethiopians, who withdrew at the beginning of 2009.

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