By ZACHARY ELKAIM
The Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) carried out an airstrike attack last night on a camp used by Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia. The attack occurred near the Somali border with Ethiopia and Kenya at Birta Dhere in the Gedo region, approximately 30 kilometers south of the district capital of Garbarahey.
KDF claimed that it killed as many as 30 Shabaab members, but local reports put the number of those killed at 10. The KDF also claimed that among those killed were senior Shabaab commanders, although KDF officials acknowledged that they have “yet to establish their identities.” The KDF went on to say that five vehicles and other “key assets” were destroyed in the attack.
Kenyan military spokesman Colonel Cyrus Oguna told Reuters :”There are remnants of al Shabaab that are still trying to draw back the gains that have been made (against them). Those remnants are the ones we are focusing on now.”
The airstrike was the first since October, when Kenyan warplanes bombed Shabaab-held targets in retaliation for the attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall.
The Kenyan air force uses F-5 fighter jets, which date back to the 1970s and lack the capability to carry guided bombs. The planes are thought to be poorly maintained, and Kenyan pilots are relatively inexperienced. In October 2011, two Kenyan F-5s crashed after colliding over southern Somalia.
Despite a military offensive led by the African Union and backed by the US that began in 2011, Shabaab still controls vast areas of southern and central Somalia. During the offensive, Shabaab was driven from major cities and towns such as Mogadishu, Kismayo, and Baidoa, but towns such as Bulobarde and Barawe remain under the terror group’s control. The group has weathered the Ethiopian invasion, which began in December 2006 and ousted its predecessor, the Islamic Courts Union. More than six years later, Shabaab remains a capable force in southern Somalia and an integral part of al Qaeda’s global network.