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Kenya's Somalia operation hits at humanitarian aid

Kenya's military is having battlefield success against Somali militants Al Shabab, but it is hindering access for humanitarian aid groups in the midst of worst famine in 30 years, aid groups say.

A resident carries his belongings on a donkey-cart as he flees from his home in Afgoye region, 19 miles from Mogadishu, Somalia, last week.

Feisal Omar/Reuters

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After a month-long intervention in Somalia, Kenya’s military can point to a string of battlefront successes against the Somali militant group Al Shabab.

Shabab strongholds in the southern Somali towns of Dhobley, Tabda, Beles Qoqaani and Ras Kamboni have fallen into Kenyan and Somali government hands over the past 36 days, and the once-impenetrable Shabab-held port city of Kismayu – from which Shabab derives millions of dollars in “taxes” on illegal smuggling syndicates – has begun to look vulnerable. Eyewitnesses have reported seeing convoys of Shabab fighters rushing to defend Kismayu, while aid organizations say displaced Somalis are increasingly flowing north toward the government-held capital of Mogadishu ahead of the advancing Kenyan army.

But while battlefield successes may be good news for the Kenyan military and the Somali government, they are less beneficial to ordinary Somalis who were already faced with one of the worst famines in more than 30 years.

“We are deeply concerned by the impact of the intensification of the conflict in Somalia, which threatens to increase internal displacement and may also reduce the ability of aid organizations to provide life-saving assistance to people coping with famine,” said Valerie Amos, the United Nations’ emergency relief coordinator, in a statement. “All parties should refrain from actions that disrupt access and respect international humanitarian law.”

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