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More Than 30 al-Shabab Militants Killed Somali, Kenyan Officials Report

FILE - African Union (AU) soldiers stand with their armored vehicles near a checkpoint in Mogadishu, Somalia, Feb. 7, 2017.
FILE - African Union (AU) soldiers stand with their armored vehicles near a checkpoint in Mogadishu, Somalia, Feb. 7, 2017.

More than 30 al-Shabab fighters were killed when African Union and Somali forces attacked two of the armed group's bases in southern Jubaland, according to Somali and Kenyan officials.

Mohamed Ahmed Hersi, a deputy commander with the Jubaland administration, said al-Shabab weapons were also destroyed in the "surprise" attacks that began Saturday and continued Sunday near Badhadhe.

"We killed at least 33 al-Shabab militants and destroyed vehicles mounted with anti-aircraft guns," Hersi told VOA's Somali Service. "I have seen the dead bodies of the 33 militants with my eyes."

A separate statement by Kenya's Defense Force said 31 al-Shabab militants were killed during the attacks, and IEDs, 11 AK-47 rifles and 634 rounds of ammunition were seized.

In the statement to the media, KDF spokesperson Joseph Owuoth said the operation was launched after AU and Somali forces received intelligence from reliable sources.

"The intelligence-led operation was executed by air and ground assets. Ground troops were supported by attack helicopters and artillery fire to access the terrorists' base and the two command and logistics bases 17 kilometers from Siraria near Hola Wajeer," Owuoth said.

On March 18, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta made a surprise visit to Dhobley in southern Somalia, where the Kenyan solders serving in the AU force, known as AMISOM, have a major base.

Kenya first sent soldiers into Somalia in October 2011 after a series of tourist kidnappings along the border. The troops were moved farther into Somalia after the Kenyans were formally integrated into AMISOM in February 2012.

Al-Shabab has inflicted heavy casualties on the Kenyans at times. In January 2016, al-Shabab overran a Kenyan base near the town of El Adde and said it killed more than 100 soldiers. The Kenyan government refused to give casualty figures.

In January, the militants said they killed at least 66 soldiers in a single attack on a Kenyan military camp in Lower Juba, some 18 kilometers from the Kenyan border.

But a Kenyan military spokesman said at the time that nine soldiers were killed.

After meeting last week with Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed in Nairobi, Kenyatta said his troops will only leave war-torn Somalia after the threat of terror is eliminated.