Farmers in southwestern Somalia accused Kenya’s military of bombing their land in air strikes targeting Islamist militants and said at least four people died in the raids. The Kenya Defence Forces denied it targeted civilians.
Kenya Air Force jets on Sunday began bombing raids on what it said were al-Shabaab camps near the border with Kenya after the militants claimed responsibility for an attack on a university in eastern Kenya in which 147 people died. The air strikes are part of a continuing campaign that began when Kenya’s military began an incursion into southern Somalia 4 1/2 years ago to fight the insurgents, an army spokesman said.
Communities in the villages of Godondhabe, Madow Cali, Bakhtiile, Irrida and Qabrishiikh in Somalia’s southwestern Gedo region were hit in air strikes carried out overnight on Monday, said Mohamed Adan, a resident of Godondhabe.
“The Kenyan fighter jets shelled us indiscriminately,” Adan said by phone Tuesday. “A woman with her three children were killed after a shell from the Kenyan jet hit their home.”
Hussein Da’ud, a resident of Qabrishiikh said the jets bombarded wells used by pastoral and agro-pastoral communities, while Nadifa Hassan, who lives in Madow Cali village, said the Kenyan jets also hit livestock including seven of his camels.
“We are not terrorists, we are Somalis living in the country,” Hassan said. “We do not deserve to be bombarded.”
Kenyan forces deployed in Somalia in October 2011 in an operation known as Linda Nchi, or ‘protect the country’ in the Swahili language, to fight an insurgency by al-Shabaab. The al-Qaeda-linked group says it has carried out a series of reprisal attacks in Kenya since the incursion began, including last week’s attack in the northeastern Kenyan town of Garissa. The militants have warned of more violence.
David Obonyo, spokesman for the Kenya Defence Forces, said there was “no chance” civilians were targeted or killed in the latest air strikes.
“Al-Shabaab do not stay in camps with civilians or families,” he said. “We were acting on credible intelligence and the weapons we use cannot miss. There is no chance there was a mistake. The places we hit were al-Shabaab bases.”