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Kenya troops chase Somali militants


Kenya Army soldiers have moved into southern Somalia (AP)

Kenya Army soldiers have moved into southern Somalia (AP)

Kenya Army soldiers have moved into southern Somalia (AP)

Kenyan military forces have moved into southern Somalia to pursue al-Shabab militants.

The military push comes a day after Kenya's top defence officials said the country has the right to defend itself after a rash of militant kidnappings of Europeans inside Kenya.

Residents in southern Somalia said that columns of Kenyan troops had moved in and that military aircraft were flying overhead.

Ali Nur Hussein said Kenyan troops arrived in tanks and military trucks and were co-ordinating with Somali government soldiers.

Kenya's government spokesman, Alfred Mutua, said that government troops "are pursuing al-Shabab across the border".

On Thursday gunmen entered the world's largest refugee camp, Dadaab, and seized two Spanish women working for the aid group Doctors Without Borders.

Dadaab is filled with nearly half a million Somali refugees fleeing conflict and hunger. Tens of thousands of Somalis have swelled the camp's ranks in the last three months after fleeing famine.

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The head the Spanish office of Doctors Without Borders said in Madrid that the group had had no contact with their workers after they were seized. Juan Antonio Bastos identified the women as Montserrat Serra i Ridao, 40, from Girona in north-east Spain and Blanca Thiebaut, 30, from Madrid.

The UN temporarily suspended all non-lifesaving aid operations in the Dadaab refugee camp following the kidnappings, a spokeswoman said. Hundreds of staff are confined to their offices, forcing the cancellation of services like education, counselling and relocation of families until further notice.

Security has long been a concern at Dadaab, where representatives from various factions seek to recruit disaffected young male refugees as fighters. Aid workers live in guarded compounds surrounded by high barbed-wire walls, and the UN requires its staff to travel in the camps with armed escorts.

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