Kenya Says Somali Militants Killed; al-Shabaab Issues Denial

Kenya’s military said it killed at least 49 al-Shabaab militants in airstrikes on camps in Somalia as the insurgents denied the claim, the second time in a week it’s contradicted the Kenyan army.

Airstrikes were carried out on logistics and operational bases in Hargeysa Yarey and Minyonta in Jilib in southern Somalia, the Kenyan Ministry of Defence said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. Among the dead were five senior commanders, while 27 insurgents were injured and two technical vehicles were destroyed, it said. Bloomberg was unable to independently verify the claims.

“Kenyan jets fired several missiles on an intermediate school in Hargeysa Yarey,” Abdurahman Abu-Hudeyfah, the self-proclaimed al-Shabaab governor of Somalia’s Juba region, said in statements on Radio Andalus, a pro-al-Shabaab broadcaster. “Luckily, their attacks coincided at a time all the students of the school had gone for a lunch break and no one was hurt.”

Kenya has faced increasing attacks by Islamist militants since sending its troops into Somalia in October 2011 to fight al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab insurgents who are trying to overthrow the government there and impose a strict version of Shariah, or Islamic law.

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the execution of 28 non-Muslims after it hijacked a bus in northeastern Kenya on Nov. 22. Kenya then said it carried out raids on two camps that killed more than 100 fighters. Al-Shabaab also denied that claim.

Coastal Attacks

The insurgents also claimed responsibility for an assault on the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, in September 2013 in which at least 67 people died, along with other attacks on Kenya’s coast this year.

Somali government forces, backed by African Union soldiers, have made gains against al-Shabaab since forcing the Islamist fighters to withdraw from the capital, Mogadishu, three years ago.

Al-Shabaab on Nov. 22 linked the bus attack to a raid on at least four mosques by Kenyan authorities in the port city of Mombasa last week. Many of Kenya’s Muslims, who make up about 11 percent of the country’s 45 million population, live in its coastal region.

Police arrested at least 350 people in last week’s raids and said they seized weapons including hand grenades and petrol bombs, along with jihadist literature. The raids were carried out after authorities received information that the mosques were being used to encourage radicalism, according to Kenyan police.

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