Kenyans rally behind military as nation mourns soldiers killed in Somalia
20 January 2016, 08:17
Nairobi - The terror attack on KDF soldiers in Somalia by Al-Shabaab has galvanised the country behind their security officers.
For the first time in a long-time, the country has united to rally behind the military personnel who put their lives on the line to keep citizens safe.
Unknown number of soldiers was killed in the Friday dawn attack in El-Adde, southern Somalia and others taken hostage by the militants.
While full information about the casualties remains scanty, the gravity of the attack has reverberated across the East African nation.
From hamlets to the capital Nairobi, Kenyans are shouting, "I stand with Kenya Defence Forces (KDF)", a line that captures their feelings towards the fallen heroes.
"I strongly condemn the Al-Shabaab attack. No soldier deserves to die especially when trying to bring peace. My prayers with troops and their families. We will surely beat terrorism," said Timothy Omondi, an accountant on Monday.
"God certainly will comfort families of slayed soldiers as we mourn. You died defending us, your work is not in vain," said Joan Tarei.
"These are sons, fathers, husbands and brothers of someone. We will never forget you. We stand by you as you stood by us protecting the country," noted Maina Nyambura.
On social media, the hash tag #63IsJustNotANumber has been trending in the East African nation, with Kenyans using it to pour support to the fallen soldiers and the military in general.
Memes have also been made and widely circulated on the internet in support of families of soldiers killed and those abducted.
"We stand with families that lost their loved ones who were fighting for the peace of our country # I stand with KDF," said Brian Moseto.
"I #stand with KDF...names and numbers of fallen heroes don't count, our enemies will remain defeated," Njaramba Mwaniki noted.
Read Also: Bodies of KDF troops killed in Somalia flown home
James Mbaru said, "They died protecting our lives and country. May their families find the peace to endure the loss. # I stand with KDF."
As a sign of solidarity with the military, Kenyans have refrained from circulating on social media images of the soldiers killed in the attack. This is a departure from the past where such images, distributed by the Al-Shabaab propaganda team, would be shared to millions.
"It is a sign of maturity and the feeling of the pain families of the soldiers have to endure as they wait to know the fate of their loved ones. Kenyans did it during the Westgate attack, the Garissa attack and the Mpeketoni attack abusing the internet, but this time, I say thank you to all social media users," said Bernard Mwaso, a software developer with Edell IT Solution in Nairobi.
While there was a stern warning from the Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaiserry against sharing the images which glorify acts of terrorism, Mwaso believed the caution alone could not have deterred the sharing.
"Kenyans have come to the realisation that the country is at war, and, thus, it is not only our soldiers who are fighting in Somalia. Sharing the images aids the enemy," said Mwaso.
Defence Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo said the militants used three vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED) to attack Kenyan soldiers numbering between 80 and 150 at their camp.
"The soldiers affected by the attack are a company size force. The operation area remains dangerous, volatile and fluid and soldiers still remain at risk," Omamo told journalists on Sunday.
She said search, rescue and recovery operations have been ongoing since the attack and will continue until all soldiers have been recovered.
She vowed that the pre-dawn attack on Friday, the first daring one since Kenya launched crossed border incursion in Somalia in 2011, will not rest unanswered.
Read Also: Questions raised of KDF intelligence in Somalia attack
"We have responded, we have engaged the perpetrators decisively and remain in full pursuit of them," she said.
"This atrocious terror attack, though extremely painful to us as nation, will not dampen the determination of our soldiers in the fight against terrorism. On the contrary, the attack services to strengthen their resolve in the face of terror and in the defense of our nation," Omamo affirmed.
She spoke as the four wounded Kenyan soldiers were airlifted home amid claims by Al-Shabaab the number of dead Kenyan troops had risen to 100. Xinhua could however verify that figure.
Al-Shabaab frequently exaggerates the number of troops/civilians they massacre, while African Union mission (AMISOM) rarely gives exact tolls.
But Kenya's Chief of Defense Samson Mwathethe has warned that Kenyan soldiers would be ruthless in their retaliatory attacks.
"We will fight them deep in their hideouts, we will smoke them out of their caves and we will follow them to the end in honour of every drop of blood Kenya has shed," Mwathethe added.
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