, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 16 – The Kenyan military says 51 Al Shabaab militants were killed in an attack by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces early Thursday.
A statement issued by Colonel David Obonyo said those killed included several middle level commanders who were responsible for attacks in Mandera.
“Eleven technical vehicles were also destroyed following the offensive. An unspecified number of injured militants escaped to Bardhere,” he said.
Earlier, the Ministry of Interior indicated that the mastermind of the Garissa University College attack had been killed in the attack.
But ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka later tweeted a clarification saying the slain militant was Jamaa Adhere and not Gamadhere, who was a former teacher at a madrassa in Northern Kenya before fleeing to Somalia.
The AFP news agency reported that missiles fired from an unidentified military aircraft struck the Shabaab targets early on Thursday.
According to traditional elders near Bardhere town in the southern Gedo region, at least two missiles struck vehicles believed to be carrying commanders of the Somali-led Al-Qaeda affiliate.
“We heard two big explosions and the information we are getting indicates that vehicles were targeted close to a Shabaab military base,” said Abdiwahab Ali, an elder at a village close to the scene of the attack.
“Village residents are telling us a missile fired from an aircraft struck a vehicle and a nearby military camp belonging to Shabaab,” said Hassan Gesle, another elder.
Ahmed Bare, Somali military officer in nearby Elwaq town, said that Shabaab commanders have been leaving Bardhere, one of the few towns still held by the militants, ahead of a planned ground assault by Somali troops.
Last month Somalia’s security agency claimed it carried out a night raid in Bardhere killing an unspecified number of Shabaab commanders.
Also last month a Shabaab assault on an African Union base in Lego left dozens of Burundian soldiers dead.
Neither the Somali military nor the African Union force in Somalia have military aircraft, but the US has in recent years launched numerous drone strikes against Shabaab leaders and said it was responsible for a September drone strike that killed the group’s emir Ahmed Abdi Godane.