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Eritrea Denies Reports it Sent Arms to Al-Shabab

Al-Shabab fighters display weapons as they conduct military exercises in northern Mogadishu, Somalia, (File).

Eritrea has denied media reports that sent two planes loaded with weapons to al-Shabab militants in southern Somalia.

Eritrea's foreign affairs ministry released a statement Wednesday calling the accusations "pure fabrication and outright lies." The ministry denied Eritrea supplies weapons to the al-Qaida-linked group and claimed the reports were part of a "disinformation campaign" to undermine Eritrea.

On Tuesday, Kenya's military said it had "reliably confirmed" that two planes landed in the southern Somali town of Baidoa, carrying arms destined for al-Shabab. Kenyan military spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir did not indicate who delivered the weapons, but local media reports put the blame on Eritrea.

The United Nations has repeatedly accused Eritrea of arming al-Shabab.

Kenyan army spokesman Chirchir has said that Kenya plans a series of airstrikes to prevent the newly-arrived arms from reaching al-Shabab fighters.

In an interview with VOA Somali Service Wednesday, Somali Defense Minister Hussein Arab Isse warned civilians to stay away from al-Shabab bases because of the possible attacks.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia last month in pursuit of al-Shabab. Kenya has blamed the group for several kidnappings of foreigners on Kenyan soil.

On Tuesday, Kenya's military said it will soon advance on 10 southern Somali towns. Chirchir said that towns stretching from Baidoa south to the port city of Kismayo will be "under attack continuously."

Al-Shabab is fighting to overthrow Somalia's weak transitional government and impose a strict form of Islamic law. The group recently was pushed out of the capital, Mogadishu, but still controls large sections of southern and central Somalia.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.