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US, Kenyan Troops Hold Joint Exercises on Anti-terrorism

The ongoing US-Kenya joint military exercises on the Kenyan coast is partly focusing on combating terrorism in East Africa, a senior Kenyan military officer said in Nairobi Monday.  

Bogita Ongeri, spokesman of the Kenyan Department of Defense, told Xinhua that the US marines involved in the joint military training are part of the anti-terrorism Combined Joint Task Force for the Horn of Africa, based at a military base in Djibouti near the Gulf of Aden.


He said the exercise, which started last Monday and is expected to end on Jan. 22, is being held on military areas near the Kenyan coastal town of Lamu and will incorporate small arms training, reconnaissance, and joint patrols along the coastline.


"The exercise is the 4th event to be held in the Kenyan coastal region and is a bilateral event which has been in the planning stages for almost six months," Ongeri said.


But he noted that the main purpose of the exercise is "purely humanitarian," saying "it allows participating troops to gain enough training skills in defense matters and also in assisting the civil authorities by undertaking humanitarian assistance meant to benefit the locals."


According to a statement issued by the US embassy in Nairobi on Jan. 5, the exercises, like its yearly predecessors, involved several hundred military personnel from each country.


It said the training provided US and Kenyan armed forces the opportunity to refine their operational skills, techniques and procedures, enhancing their ability to work together effectively and strengthening the long-standing military-to-military relationship.


Local officials said the training aims to improve the forces' capability to counter the threat of terror in a region that has proven to be vulnerable to extremist attacks, while also strengthening existing military relations between Kenya and the United States.


The first such joint training exercises were held way back in 1996 under the now disbanded African Crisis Response Initiative, a US program that allegedly sought to help African nations respond to humanitarian crises and undertake peacekeeping missions.


Since the advent of global terrorism in Africa, the training shifted focus to anti-terrorism.


(Xinhua News Agency January 13, 2004)

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