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Islamic militancy

Kenya says 30 al-Shabab militants killed in Somalia air strike

More than 30 al-Shabab militants and commanders eliminated in assault following attack on Nairobi shopping mall last year

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 January, 2014, 1:48am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 April, 2016, 12:44pm

Kenya's military has killed more than 30 al-Shabab militants and commanders in Somalia, a spokesman said, in a major air strike across the border following the Islamists' attack on a Nairobi shopping mall last year.

Kenyan fighter jets hit a camp at Garbaharey in the Gedo region on Thursday, where the militants, who profess links to al-Qaeda, were holding a meeting, the military said.

Al-Shabab has been weakened by African Union troops over the past two years, ushering in some stability in many parts of the Horn of Africa country after a campaign of cross-border raids and kidnappings of Westerners and security forces.

However, the rebels, who have waged a seven-year insurgency seeking to impose a strict interpretation of sharia law in Somalia, stunned the world in September when they attacked an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, killing at least 67 people.

The military's air raids were the first since October, when Kenyan warplanes bombed targets held by the Islamists in reprisal for the attack on the mall.

"There are remnants of al-Shabab that are still trying to draw back the gains that have been made [against them]," Kenyan military spokesman Colonel Cyrus Oguna said yesterday.

"Those remnants are the ones we are focusing on now."

Despite more than two years of attacks on al-Shabab positions by Kenyan and other east African troops, there is no clear picture of how many are involved in the movement or whether its numbers have been eroded by the intervention.

After October's raid, the Kenya Defence Forces said it destroyed a training camp, killing or wounding many of the more than 300 fighters there.

The militants, who said they attacked the shopping centre because of Kenya's intervention in Somalia, denied then there had been any attack and yesterday denied that they had lost any men.

"No single fighter was killed in [Thursday's] air raid. The plane bombarded an empty place. Kenya's claim is their usual propaganda," sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabab's spokesman for military operations, said.

It was not immediately clear what, if anything other than opportunity, had triggered Thursday's raids.

Residents in Gedo said al-Shabab had been regrouping in the area over the past days.

"We heard several bombs targeted at Galweeyne which is a stronghold for al-Shabab," resident Nur Farah, in Garbaharey town, said.

Oguna said the strikes would continue, and would target the militants' support infrastructure including command centres, communication centres and their logistics bases.

"We keep on hunting them down and the moment we identify where they are, we hit them," Oguna said. President Uhuru Kenyatta has vowed to maintain Kenya's military presence in the war-torn country despite al-Shabab attacks inside Kenya.

"Let them [al-Shabab] know that we will not relent on the war," Kenyatta said late last year.

"Our forces will remain in Somalia until such time when we are satisfied that there is peace."

Kenya has more than 3,600 soldiers in Somalia as part of an African peacekeeping mission.