MOGADISHU/NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenyan air strikes on an Islamist rebel-held village in southern Somalia targeted a militant base from where attacks on the world’s largest refugee camp had been planned, Kenya’s military spokesman said on Wednesday.
Kenya’s airforce twice bombarded an insurgent camp in Hosungow village near the two countries’ common border on Tuesday, killing a rebel commander and seventeen al Shabaab combatants, spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir said in a statement.
Local residents, however, said between 12 and 14 civilians had been killed when the first strike bombed the outskirts of the village while the second air raid struck the village centre.
Al Shabaab said on Tuesday a jet had targeted the group in the village but denied suffering any casualties.
“Grenade attacks in Dadaab camp (were) planned from this camp,” Chirchir tweeted, referring to a wave of low-level blasts in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp that have targeted Kenya’s security forces, forcing many refugee operations to be halted.
Western aid workers have also been kidnapped from Dadaab in recent months.
Kenyan forces crossed into Somalia in October after a wave of kidnappings and cross-border raids on its soil, blaming the rebels who control large swathes of southern-central Somalia.
Al Shabaab have denied responsibility for the kidnappings and have threatened major retaliatory attacks on Kenyans.
On Wednesday, Kenyan lawmakers were shown a letter dated December 15 from the president’s office which said it had received information al Shabaab operatives had been dispatched to assassinate Defence Minister Yusuf Haji and deputy speaker Farah Maalim.
The letter also said some militants had been sent to attack the Habaswein and El Wak markets in Kenya.
Al Shabaab has waged a bloody five-year campaign to drive the largely impotent government from power, quitting in August most of its bases in the capital, Mogadishu, where it continues to launch guerilla-style attacks.
The festering instability across much of the Horn of Africa country presents a major obstacle to the interim government tasked with holding elections and adopting a new constitution by August next year.
Somalia’s top political leaders as well as top officials from the semi-autonomous Puntland region, members of the pro-Mogadishu Ahlu Sunna militia and the United Nations met for a three-day summit in the town of Garowe, Puntland, on Wednesday.
The talks are aimed at gauging progress on the implementation of a political road map designed to pave the way to a presidential vote and end a string of transitional governments plagued by corruption and infighting.