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Kenya struggling to contain spillover of Somalia's violence

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Peter Imbote/Reuters

(Read caption) A Kenya police Mi-17 helicopter lands in Kiunga, on the Kenya-Somalia border, as they search for the missing disabled French woman seized from her home in Ras-Kitau on Manda Island in Lamu on Oct. 3, 2011. Dozens of Kenyans have protested on against the government's lax security measures after gunmen seized a French hostage and escaped into Somalia, the second incident of its kind in recent weeks which locals fear will hit Kenya's lucrative tourism industry.

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Over the weekend the Kenyan press called attention to six new military bases the Kenyan government has set up on its border with Somalia. Kenya has long been deeply implicated in and affected by the conflict in Somalia. Refugees and violence regularly spill over the border. But recent kidnappings of Western tourists in Kenya have drawn international attention, and Al Shabab’s withdrawal from Mogadishu has started to increase violence in the border area.

Witnesses have reported hundreds of Shabab fighters heading south toward Somalia’s border with Kenya. The border area is controlled by a fractious group of warlords and militias who get covert support from Kenya and Ethiopia and are nominally loyal to Somalia’s transitional government. On Friday [Sept. 30] before dawn, Shabab forces struck Dhobley, a market town jointly controlled by an Islamist warlord and a French-educated intellectual who is trying to form his own ministate called Azania, an ancient Greek name for the Horn of Africa.

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