UPDATE 3-Somalia’s al Shabaab says kills dozens of Kenyan troops in raid on base

By Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar

Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers, who are part of the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), secure an area during a foot patrol on the outskirts of the controlled area of the old airport in the coastal town of Kismayu in southern Somalia November 12, 2013. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola

MOGADISHU Jan 27 (Reuters) – The Islamist group al Shabaab said on Friday its fighters killed dozens of Kenyan troops when they attacked a remote military base in Somalia on Thursday, a claim the Kenyan army denied.

A spokesman for al Shabaab, which often launches attacks on the African troops fighting with the African Union’s AMISOM force, said its fighters killed at least 57 Kenyans at the base in the southern town of Kulbiyow, near the Kenyan border.

“That is false,” Kenyan military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Paul Njuguna told Reuters, without giving any casualty figures. “The operation is ongoing. We are receiving updates.”

In January 2016, al Shabaab said it had killed more than 100 Kenyan soldiers in El Adde, a Somali camp near the border with Kenya. The Kenyan military never gave details of casualties, but Kenya media reports suggested a toll of that magnitude.

“We are pursuing the Kenyan soldiers who ran away into the woods,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operation spokesman, told Reuters about Friday’s attack.

“Two mujahideen (fighters) rammed suicide car bombs into the base in Kulbiyow town before storming it,” he said, adding that alongside counting 57 Kenyan bodies the group seized vehicles and weapons. “We have taken over the base.”

Al Shabaab, whose assessment of casualties often differs markedly from official versions, typically rams the entrance to a target site with a car or truck bomb so fighters can storm in.

Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operation spokesman, had told Reuters al Shabaab fighters rammed two suicide car bombs into the base and seized it. “We are pursuing the Kenyan soldiers who ran away into the woods,” he said.

Al Shabaab, whose assessment of casualties often differs markedly from official versions, typically rams the entrance to a target site with a car or truck bomb so fighters can storm in.

The Islamist group, which once ruled much of Somalia, wants to topple the Western-backed government in Mogadishu and drive out the peacekeeping force made up of soldiers from Kenya, Djibouti, Uganda, Ethiopia and other African countries.

Al Shabaab has been fighting for years to impose its strict interpretation of Islam on Somalia.

African Union and Somali troops have driven its fighters from major urban strongholds and ports, including the capital Mogadishu in 2011, but they have often struggled to defend smaller, more remote areas from attacks. (Additional reporting by George Obulutsa in Nairobi; Writing by Aaron Maasho and Edmund Blair; Editing by Catherine Evans)

 

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