Kenya looks to Somali troops, militia to create border buffer

Tue Aug 16, 2011 11:37am GMT

By Richard Lough

DHOBLEY, Somalia Aug 16 (Reuters) - From a cluster of tents in southern Somalia's arid wastelands, Sheikh Ahmed Madobe commands a militia battling to repel Islamist rebels from the border of his country's anxious neighbour, Kenya.

Alongside Somali government troops, Madobe's Raskamboni fighters -- some of them look more like teenage boys -- police an uneasy peace in Dhobley, a windswept, dusty town just a few kilometres from Kenya's eastern frontier.

East Africa's biggest economy has long cast a wary eye at Somalia, and is struggling to secure a porous border with its lawless neighbour that stretches hundreds of kilometres through deserted wilderness.

Keen to avoid a spillover of violence by al Qaeda-trained foreign jihadists seeking haven in Somalia as well as al Shabaab rebels entrenched in the south, Nairobi wants to create a buffer zone.

Kenya has already trained thousands of newly recruited Somali soldiers to man the frontier. It also provides logistical and intelligence support to Somali government troops.

"Dhobley is the first area we secured, pushing out al Shabaab. We expect in the coming days to push them out of the region," said the soft-faced Sheikh Dahir, one of Madobe's lieutenants.

Madobe was a senior member of an Islamist administration routed from power by Ethiopian forces in late 2006, early 2007. He later turned his guns on his former allies to side with the U.N.-backed government.

Dhobley's buildings carry the pock-marked scars of intense gunbattles in April this year when Raskamboni and government forces regained control of the town from the al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab group.   Continued...

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