NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 24 – Kenyan troops launched both air and ground bombardments on strategic Al Shabaab strongholds in Somalia and killed 10 militants in the latest offensive as they advance to capture the port of Kismayu.
The Department of Defence in Nairobi said seven of the insurgents were killed when areas of Wamaitho and Kisima on the Southern parts of Somalia were bombed by air force jets on Thursday morning.
The attacks were carried out by Kenya Defence Forces and Transitional Federal Government troops at an Al Shabaab training camp in the town of Hawina, which is between the towns of Dobley and Tabda.
“During this engagement three Al Shabaab were killed and two AK-47 recovered. Several Al Shabaab militias escaped with injuries,” Military Spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir said of the attacks at the area named Sector Central by the Kenyan troops.
“Battle damage assessment on Al Shabaab camps air strikes by KDF in Wamaitho and Kisima indicate seven Al Shabaab were killed and eight injured,” Chirchir said of attacks by troops deployed to Sector South.
But even as the Kenyan troops continued to bombard Al Shabaab bases in Somalia, back home security forces were grappling with threats posed by the insurgents who have been laying landmines mainly targeted on police and soldiers patrolling the Somalia border.
On Wednesday, two police officers were shot and seriously wounded by gunmen believed to be Al Shabaab militants at the border town of Liboi.
Another bloody attack occurred on Thursday morning when a landmine laid on a road in the outskirts of Mandera town blew up a military truck, killing one soldier.
Five other soldiers were seriously wounded in the attack and were airlifted to the Garissa provincial general hospital for treatment.
“Thirteen KDF troops onboard a service truck drove over a planted Improvised Explosive Device (IED) while on patrol duties in the general area of MLIMA FISI in Mandera,” Chirchir said in a statement. “One of the injured had succumbed to his injuries.”
The attacks came six weeks after Nairobi sent troops and tanks into Somalia to fight the Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab insurgents, accused of a series of attacks in Kenya including the abduction of four foreign women.
Kenyan officials have blamed the hardline Al Shabaab or their sympathisers for a spate of recent shootings and bombings, although armed bandits also operate in the border areas.
The extremist militia faces growing pressure as regional armies slowly encircle them, with Kenyan forces in the south, Ugandan and Burundian African Union forces in Mogadishu and Ethiopian troops in the west.
The conflict however comes at a cost for civilians caught up in the skirmishes.
The United Nations warned Thursday that Ethiopia’s reported deployment of troops into Somalia could worsen what is already the world’s most severe humanitarian crisis.
“Local sources report that hundreds of Ethiopian troops entered Somalia on November 20 opening a new front against Al Shabaab,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report.
“The humanitarian community is deeply concerned about the consequences that this intervention could have on the already fragile humanitarian situation due to access to the population,” the report warned.
“The intensification of the conflict in Somalia threatens to increase internal displacement,” it added, the first time the United Nations has warned of the potentially dangerous consequences of Ethiopia’s move.
Some 250,000 people in south and central Somalia face imminent starvation, the UN report added, despite massive international efforts to get emergency aid out to critically affected regions of the war-torn country.