Kenyan Special Operations soldiers, operating near the Somalian border, have killed six al-Shabaab fighters while capturing another early on Friday, officials reported. 

North Eastern Regional Commissioner, Nick Dalana, confirmed that the terrorists were killed by a Kenya Army (KDF) Special Operations Team (SOT) at Jirole in Ijara Sub-County. British Special Air Service (SAS) and U.S. commandos have been training and advising the SOTs. 

On Thursday, several locals from Moyale Town in the border of Kenya and Ethiopia reported that five civilians were killed by gunmen, alleging that the gunmen were Ethiopian soldiers. The locals stated that the civilians had been killed on claims of harboring rebels.

Early on Friday morning, there were reports of Kenyan and Ethiopian soldiers clashing on the highway that separates the two countries. Kenya and Ethiopia have been having a territorial dispute over lands in Kenya’s north border.

Meanwhile, Kenya is also having a border dispute with Somalia and there were reports of violent clashes between Somali armed forces and forces loyal to Ahmed Madobe, the leader of Jubbaland, which is one of Somalia’s five semiautonomous states. During the fighting, at least 11 people were killed in the Somali border town of Bula-hawo.

Kenyan officials said that the fighting spilled over into their territory after Somali troops pursued Madobe’s Jubbaland forces that had crossed over the border. The Kenyans have said that they are considering annexing parts of Somalia to keep the terrorists of al-Shabaab out of Kenya. 

They accuse Somalia of allowing al-Shabaab terrorists to infiltrate and recruit suicide bombers from refugee camps populated with Somalis fleeing war. Al-Shabaab terrorists have conducted numerous attacks in Kenya to attempt to force Kenya to withdraw its troops from Somalia.

Kenya contributes about 4,000 troops to the African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia but has reportedly deployed many more, especially in the disputed area of Gedo. Gedo is an area along the coast where the two countries have had an ongoing dispute over oil and gas rights in a 100,000 square-mile stretch of the Indian Ocean.

Kenyans were particularly incensed at reports that Somali soldiers destroyed the property of Kenyans in Mandera which is situated along the border. “Half of Mandera town has now been deserted,” said Mohammed Mahmoud, a senator from Mandera County. “We already have internally-displaced people and therefore our plea is that our government should intervene.”

The Somalians counter that Kenya must “halt its ongoing violations” of Somalia’s sovereignty. They also accuse Nairobi of protecting a former Jubbaland minister who was arrested for “serious crimes” but escaped from prison in January.

Somalia claims that the Kenyans’ interest in the border area goes well beyond the defeat of al-Shabaab. They believe that Kenya wants control of the Kismayo port area as well as the offshore mineral rights

The Kenyans counter that they support Madobe and his Jubbaland troops because they provide a buffer between them and al-Shabaab, whose terrorists have conducted 20 cross-border attacks in Kenya in the past few years, killing more than 300. The Ethiopians, also part of the African Union peacekeeping mission, detest Madobe.

And al-Shabaab is looking at expanding into Ethiopia as well since Ethiopia has allied itself with the United States. The Ethiopian security services recently arrested a cell of al-Shabaab militants who were planning on blowing up hotels, religious sites, and festivals, in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

The dispute of Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia is creating the exact kind of vacuum that the terrorists of al-Shabaab can exploit.