In the Somali city of Kismayo, Kenyan forces took casualties Thursday when their convoy hit a roadside bomb. The attack comes as rival militias supporting different men for the leadership of newly created Jubaland state fight for control of the port city.
Witnesses and officials say a powerful roadside bomb has rocked Somalia's southern port city of Kismayo. The explosion hit a convoy of military vehicles carrying Kenyan forces on patrol in the city.
One witness at the scene of the attack, who only gave his first name as Samatar, told VOA the military convoy was destroyed and he saw the bodies of several dead soldiers.
“I was walking on the other side of the road. Suddenly I heard a powerful bomb explosion. It knocked me to the ground and I was covered in dust. When the dust settled I saw eight to nine Kenyan soldiers, apparently dead and four Somali school children,” he said.
Samatar said that after the explosion the troops in other convoys started shooting.
Abdinasir Serar of the Ras Kamboni militia group confirmed to VOA that there was an attack apparently targeting Kenyan forces.
“Yes, there was an attack and they [Kenyan forces] had some casualties, and we haven’t heard of any civilian casualties. We have started carrying out an investigation about how the attack happened and who was behind it,” said Serar.
Serar denied the account of some witnesses that the Kenyan forces started opening fire on civilians after the attack, but says the gunfire was between rival militias fighting in the city earlier.
The port city has been simmering with tension since last month after three different clan leaders said they were president of the newly created Jubaland region.
For weeks now, Kismayo has witnessed deadly clashes in the city between rival clan militias fighting over the control of the lucrative port.
The United Nations reported that the first battle between militias earlier this month claimed the lives of at least 31 civilians. Dozens more were reported injured.
Serar blames militant group al-Shabab and the Somali government for the deterioration of the security in the city.
“We can say they are different groups involved in the latest wave of insecurity in the city, there is al-Shabab, and the Somali government is also involved in the latest violence. These two groups have people on the ground carrying out these attacks. These are the same people attacking people in the streets and also firing on Kenyan forces,” said Serar.
There is a growing fear that al-Shabab will carry out attacks as tension and fighting continues. Al-Shabab controlled the city and its port for several years before Kenyan and Somali forces kicked them out last year.