Kenyan troops have killed nearly 60 suspected members of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militant group during a fierce fighting in southern Somalia, a Kenya’s military spokesman says.
Col. Joseph Owuoth said in a statement on Thursday that Kenyan soldiers under the African Union command used helicopter gunships and artillery against al-Shabab Takfiri militants in Afmadow, a town located about 100 kilometers inland from the port of Kismayo.
“In the onslaught, 57 al-Shabab militants were killed and unknown number injured,” Owuoth said.
The spokesman added that at least five gun-mounted pickup trucks known as “technicals” were also destroyed in the offensive.
In January, al-Shabab militants targeted a Kenyan military base in the southern Somali town of Kulbiyow, near the Kenyan border.
Kenyan authorities said that nine soldiers lost their lives in the assault, while al-Shabab said it killed at least 66.
Last January, al-Shabab said it had killed over 100 Kenyan troops in El Adde, a Somali camp near the border with Kenya.
Suspected al-Shabab militants kidnap 3 teachers in Kenya
Meanwhile, Kenyan police said Thursday that gunmen had kidnapped at least three Kenyan teachers from Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya.
Three men with pistols abducted the teachers with the Udha Academy in the Hagadera section of the world’s largest refugee camp, which hosts more than 300,000 Somali refugees.
Mohamud Saleh, the northeastern regional security coordinator, said security forces sealed the route into neighboring Somalia, where the gunmen are suspected to have come from.
Kenyan authorities say the camp has become a recruitment and training ground for al-Shabab.
The government in Nairobi blamed al-Shabab for the kidnapping of two Spanish aid workers from Dadaab camp in October 2011.
In June 2012, four international aid workers were kidnapped from Dadaab in an assault that saw a Kenyan driver killed.
The militant group has vowed revenge on Kenya for sending soldiers to Somalia to fight it.
Kenya says multiple cross-border attacks led to its decision to send troops to Somalia.
The al-Shabab militant group, which once had control over many parts of Somalia, including the capital city Mogadishu, aims to topple the central government and push out the African Union mission to Somalia, known as AMISOM, which is made up of soldiers from Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda, Ethiopia, and other African countries.
AMISOM and Somali troops driven al-Shabab out of all major urban strongholds and ports, but the group still stages attacks on targets in smaller, more remote areas, posing a threat to peace.
By Africafrique and agencies