Kenyan fighter jets attacked al-Qaeda-linked militants in southern Somalia, two days after explosions in its capital city left at least 12 people dead.
The Kenyan air force struck an explosives-making compound at Jilib, about 334 kilometers (207 miles) southwest of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, military spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir said on his Twitter account. A second site housing al-Shabaab fighters, some of them Kenyans, was also hit by the jets, he said. An assessment of the damage is under way.
“The warplanes attacked farmlands on the outskirts of Jilib town,” Mohamed Abdi Kalil, governor of Somalia’s Gedo region, said by phone. There were no casualties, he said.
Kenya’s military began an incursion into southern Somalia in October 2011 to combat al-Shabaab militants it blamed for a series of attacks on aid workers and tourists. Al-Shabaab threatened to retaliate unless the forces were withdrawn and in September the group claimed responsibility for a raid on the Westgate mall in Nairobi, which left at least 67 people dead.
On May 16, two explosions hit the Gikomba market on the outskirts of Nairobi’s city center, killing 12 people and injuring 99. Those deaths add to the 54 people who have died and 193 that have been wounded in “terrorist attacks” in Kenya since the Westgate raid, according to Maplecroft, the Bath, U.K.-based risk consultancy.
Kenya is the world’s largest exporter of black tea and the biggest economy in East Africa. Companies including Google Inc., International Business Machines Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. have set up regional bases in the country. The government is preparing a debut sale of $1.5 billion of Eurobonds by the end of next month.
The U.S. State Department yesterday updated its travel warning for Kenya, saying its embassy is “reviewing its staffing with an eye toward reduction in staff in the near future.” The government said in a statement that it continues to receive information about possible threats to Western interests in much of the country, including Nairobi, the port city of Mombasa and the holiday-resort town of Diani.
“The United States stands with our Kenyan friends and partners who continue to face adversity with courage and resolve,” Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said in e-mailed comments. “We support them in their efforts to confront terrorism in all of its forms.”
African Union Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma reiterated the pan-African organization’s support for Kenyan authorities in an e-mailed statement that described the blast as a “heinous and cowardly act against innocent civilians.”
TUI AG, the owner of Europe’s largest tour operator, said on May 16 it repatriated about 400 customers in Kenya to the U.K. and canceled all flights to Mombasa until Oct. 31.
The evacuations come after the U.K.’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office on May 14 advised against “all but essential travel” to Mombasa and surrounding areas because of threats to security in the area. The U.S., France, Australia, Canada and Sweden have issued similar advisories.
Tourist arrivals to the country fell to 1.4 million last year from 1.7 million in 2012 in the wake of the Westgate attack. The tourism industry is the nation’s second-biggest source of foreign exchange, generating $1.1 billion in 2013.