Kenya said on Friday it had killed at least 30 Shebab rebels including top commanders in an air strike on a training camp in Somalia, although the militants quickly denied the claim.
The Kenyan military said the raid on Thursday evening targeted a Shebab camp in Garbarahey in Gedo region, situated around 600 kilometres northwest of the capital Mogadishu and near the border with Kenya and Ethiopia.
“KDF (Kenya Defence Force) fighter jets attacked an Al Shebab camp, where a meeting was being held,” a senior KDF official said.
“Initial battle damage assessment indicates more than 30 Al Shebab militants killed, including key commanders,” the official added.
Another military official said the Kenyan armed forces were trying to determine the identities of those killed in the raid.
“We are yet to establish their identities, but they are definitely big shots in the militant group’s hierarchy,” the official said, adding that five vehicles and other “key assets” were destroyed in the raid.
Officials said they believed dozens of other militants were also wounded.
When contacted, a Shebab military spokesman dismissed the Kenyan claims.
“We have no troop presence there. There were no Shebab fighters in the area, none of our people were killed,” said the spokesman, Abdiaziz Abu Musab.
“The Kenyans are claiming the casualties to please their bosses in the West who have contracted them for the war in Somalia,” he added.
Kenya has been battling the Al-Qaeda-inspired Shebab on Somali soil since October 2011, and has since joined the African Union force deployed in the country.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has vowed to maintain Kenya’s military presence in the war-torn country despite Shebab attacks inside Kenya – including the attack on the Westgate shopping mall in September last year.
“Let them (Shebab) know that we will not relent on the war,” Kenyatta said late last year.
“Our forces will remain in Somalia until such time when we are satisfied that there is peace.”