, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 5 – A Kenyan fighter pilot whose jet crashed in an area controlled by Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shabaab fighters in southern Somalia is missing, the army said on Friday.
The Shabaab said they shot down the warplane on Thursday and “destroyed” the body of the pilot, who was returning from a bombing raid on an extremist base.
Kenya says the plane crashed after developing “technical problems”.
“The pilot of the aircraft made a distress call to his wingman, the pilot in a second aircraft,” Kenyan army spokesman Colonel David Obonyo said in a statement.
“Regrettably, the aircraft crashed within enemy territory, Al-Shabaab militia reached the site of the crashed aircraft and set it on fire. The fate of the pilot remains unknown, he is still missing in action.”
Kenyan troops entered southern Somalia three years ago to fight the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shabaab rebels, later joining an African Union force.
They recently launched heavy air strikes against Shabaab bases in southern Somalia after the extremists carried out a string of attacks inside Kenya including two massacres that left more than 60 dead.
Kenya said the airstrike Thursday destroyed a rebel “operation and logistics base” and that “several Al-Shabaab militia including foreign fighters were killed.”
It was not possible to independently verify the reports.
The Shabaab are fighting to overthrow Somalia’s internationally-backed government, but have also carried out a string of revenge attacks in neighbouring Kenya.
After they executed 36 non-Muslim quarry workers in a Kenyan border town on Tuesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta vowed to “intensify the war on terrorism”, calling the Islamists “deranged animals” and blaming them for the death of more than 800 Kenyans.
The Shabaab in turn warned they would be “uncompromising, relentless and ruthless” in further attacks.