Somalia: February 3, 2002


Three US Navy ships, with 3,000 Marines and Navy personnel on board, arrived off the coast of Kenya on 3 February 2002 for Operation "Edged Mallet". Even though war clouds gathering over nearby Somalia might indicate that this is a preemptive move, "Edged Mallet" had been planned since early 2001 as part of an ongoing series of US-Kenya military missions. Over the last few years Kenya has hosted several US/Kenyan bilateral maneuvers, such as "Natural Fire" and "Noble Piper", and multi-national exercises like "Golden Spear" or African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) training.

However, "Edged Mallet" was considerably larger than recent bilateral military exercises. An unnamed American embassy official told the Kenyan newspaper "The Nation" that the exercise would include the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard and two support ships. The 1,000 US Marines would be joined by about 250 to 300 Kenyan soldiers, from the 15th Kenyan Rifles and the Engineer Battalion.

The exercise was to be limited to small arms fire in Lamu District, with no "explosive ordnance" used so as to eliminate the threat of accidental civilian injuries from unexploded munitions. The Maasai and Samburu ethnic groups had lodged compensation claims against the British army in July 2001, claiming that the UK Ministry of Defense had been negligent in failing to remove unexploded ordnance from firing ranges in central Kenya. Maasai and Samburu farmers living near the Archer's Post and Dol Dol firing ranges claimed that there were four or five accidental deaths per year from discarded, unexploded ordnance.

Humanitarian projects included the construction of two classrooms at Rasini Primary School (Faza) and repair of a Coast village bridge that collapsed during the El Nino rains. They would also drill a water borehole at Magarini Maternity Clinic (Malindi) and restore a medical clinic in another area, while US medical personnel will offer services to people living near the exercise areas. - Adam Geibel


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