MOGADISHU - 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.
“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.