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Kenyan Jets Target Al-Shabab Bases in Somalia

  • Reuters

FILE - African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops gather for a briefing before embarking on an operation.

FILE - African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops gather for a briefing before embarking on an operation.

Kenyan fighter jets have attacked two bases belonging to Islamist al-Shabab insurgents in Somalia and killed at least 80 militants, African Union peacekeepers there said on Monday.

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), whose soldiers launched a new offensive against al-Shabab this year, said Kenyan planes carried out the raids on Anole and Kuday in the southern Lower Juba region. It did not say when they took place.

Al-Shabab Timeline

2006 - Launches insurgency to take control of Somalia and impose strict Islamic law
2008 - U.S. declares al-Shabab a foreign terrorist organization
2009 - Seizes control of parts of Mogadishu and the port city Kismayo
2010 - Expands control across central and southern Somalia, carries out deadly bombing in Kampala, Uganda
2011 - Blocks drought/famine aid from areas under its control
2011 - East African leaders declare al-Shabab a regional threat; Ethiopian, Kenyan troops enter Somalia to pursue the group, which is driven out of Mogadishu
2012 - Declares itself an al-Qaida ally, loses ground in Somalia, abandons strategic coastal stronghold Kismayo
2013 - Attacks Mogadishu court complex, killing more than 30 and attacks mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing at least 69 people
2014 - Attack in Mogadishu kills more than 10 on New Year's Day
“The air strikes in Anole left more than 30 al Shabaab fighters dead, three technical vehicles and one Land Cruiser loaded with ammunition destroyed,” AMISOM said. More than 50 rebels were killed in the Kuday raid, it added.

Kenya first sent its troops into neighboring Somalia in 2011 after several attacks inside its territory that it blamed on al-Shabab, and later joined the peacekeeping force.

The militants have since carried out a string of assaults to punish Kenya for its intervention. Al-Shabab fighters killed at least 67 people in a raid on a Nairobi shopping mall last year.

Some areas being liberated

AMISOM said al-Shabab had lost control of more than 10 major towns in the new push by African troops, including soldiers from Uganda, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Burundi and Sierra Leone.

“AMISOM continues to up the pressure on al-Shabab with a view to liberating more areas in forthcoming operations,” the force said.

Officials and diplomats have said towns cleared of al-Shabab are in a dire state, with food stocks emptied and largely abandoned by their inhabitants, creating what one envoy described as “ghost towns.”

They said al-Shabab still controls tracts of countryside, making it difficult for supplies to be moved to the towns.

Somalia's government is struggling to impose order since the AU peacekeepers, backed by Somali troops, drove al-Shabab out of the capital Mogadishu in 2011.

More than two decades of conflict have left Somalia in ruins, while al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab has continued guerrilla-style attacks and suicide bombings.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for last week's attack on the Kenyan coastal town of Mpeketoni that killed about 65 people, although Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta dismissed al-Shabab's account and said local politicians were behind it.

In a separate incident, an al-Shabab spokesman said the group had attacked Kenyan troops near the border with Kenya on Monday morning and had burned four trucks, killing those inside.

Kenya's defense forces denied there was any such fight.