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Kenya to Stay in Somalia Until Safe From Al-Shabab Menace

General Julius Karangi, Kenyan (CDF) Chief of the Defense Force, speaks to journalists at a military press briefing in Nairobi. Kenya, October 29, 2011.

Kenya's Defense Ministry says it has not set a time frame for its operation against al-Shabab militants in Somalia, saying troops will leave the country when Kenyans feel secure. Kenyan officials emphasized that they are not at war with Somalia, but with al-Shabab.

Kenya’s military chief, General Julius Karangi, told reporters Saturday that Kenya’s military will continue its assault in Somalia until Kenyans feel safe from what he called “the al-Shabab menace.”

“This campaign is not time bound, we shall leave it to the people of this country to decide that yes, we feel safe enough on the common border and then we shall come back. So key factors or indicators would be in the form of a highly degraded al-Shabab capacity,” he said.

The military says it has killed hundreds of al-Shabab militants in 15 days of fighting, while only one Kenyan soldier has been killed in battle.

Three Kenyan soldiers are missing, including two who were kidnapped earlier this year, and a third who was lost at sea during a mission to save a kidnapped Frenchwoman.

General Karangi insisted that Kenya’s military incursion was in direct reaction to those kidnappings and other similar attacks and that the entire operation was planned between October 4 and 14.

“Some people mentioned that this entire operation was pre-planned it had been on the table for many, many months and years, and the answer is no," he said. "We acted as a country on the spur of the moment and we were able to do what we have done so far inside 10 days.”

Karangi added that Kenya has at no time planned to annex any part of Somalia.

The Kenyan military claims to be working in conjunction with forces from Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, but says no foreign troops are engaged in the offensive.

It is unclear how many Kenya soldiers are involved in the operation.

Asked about this, Karangi would only say the size of force is “sufficient to do the task at hand.”