Kenyan troops using aerial cover advanced on Tuesday on a strategic rebel-held Somali town, as Kenya's Defence Minister arrived in Mogadishu for talks with Somalia's transitional government.
As Kenyan troops moved forward, police back home stepped up security for fear of reprisal attacks after warnings by Islamist al-Shabab militants that Kenyan territory would face attack on “all fronts possible”.
“Our forces will be concentrating on operations in Afmadow region today, they started moving there late on Monday,” said Kenyan Army spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir.
Kenyan troops have pushed at least 120 km into Somalia to reach Afmadow region since Nairobi declared war on the Shabab militia and confirmed it had sent its army across the border on Sunday.
Defence Minister Yusuf Haji, an ethnic Somali, led a Kenyan delegation for talks with Somalia's Western-backed leadership, said Garad Mohammed, an official in the Somali Prime Minister's Office.
Guided by pro-government Somali forces, backed by heavy aerial bombardments but bogged down on mud tracks in heavy rain, Kenya has been hitting back against recent kidnappings inside Kenya blamed on the Islamists.
The assault has prompted dire warnings of revenge from the Shabab, who deny being behind recent kidnappings of foreigners from beach resorts and an overcrowded refugee camp.
Senior Shabab leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys warned that Kenya would face the consequences of moving troops into Somalia.
The last time Somalia was invaded by one of its neighbours was in late 2006 when Ethiopia started an occupation that lasted two years and spurred the formation of the Al Qaeda-inspired Shabab insurgency. But Kenya said it was not frightened by the Shabab's grim warning.