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Offensive Against Islamic Militants Enjoys Public Support, Says Kenyan Legislator

Somalia's Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali (L) and his Kenyan counterpart Raila Amollo Odinga display the joint communique issued following their talks in Kenya's capital Nairobi, October 31, 2011.

A Kenyan lawmaker says there is overwhelming public support for the ongoing military offensive against Islamic militants in neighboring Somalia, despite initial misgivings.

Gitobu Imanyara says Kenya has suffered “more than our share,” including kidnappings and murder allegedly perpetrated by the Somalia-based and Al Qaeda-linked militant group, al-Shabab.

“As a country, we have suffered more than our share in terms of destabilization [and] loss of tourism revenue,” said Imanyara.”It’s time that we confronted these terrorist acts in our country because we are becoming a laughing stock. These people are using our country as training grounds, as their finance capital to export and kill people.”

He said the Kenyan government has reportedly petitioned the U.N. for an international blockade of Kismayu to aid the military offensive against the militants who control the town.

Nairobi sent an undisclosed number of troops across the border last month to fight al-Shabab, which it blames for a series of kidnappings of foreigners on Kenyan soil.

Imanyara said the insurgent group’s activities are affecting Kenya’s economic interests as well as posing what he is calling a significant security threat to the East African sub-region.

“It is a threat to international shipping along the entire Indian Ocean coast… The time is now to cut off Kismayu and let the TFG [Transitional Federal Government of Somalia] forces and the Kenyan military to get these gangs out of Kismayu,” said Imanyara.

He said there was skepticism following the inability of the government to explain to Kenyans its military offensive against the Somali insurgents.

“The president [Mwai Kibaki] had not sought parliamentary approval to declare war,” said Imanyara. “The government didn’t come out clean on what was happening. The president didn’t address the nation, and we were getting news of this campaign from different sources, sometimes conflicting stories. But since the country got to know the official position, they have stood by the government’s decision.”

He adds that the government informed parliament that the offensive against the Somali insurgents is a joint military effort between Kenya and the western-backed Somali transitional government.

The Kenyan military has warned residents of 10 Somali towns where al-Shabab has a presence that those areas will likely come under attack.

Meanwhile, Kenya says it is investigating reports of civilian deaths stemming from the military campaign. Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Tuesday that any death that has occurred as a result of the military operation will be investigated thoroughly.