KENYAN fighter jets on Monday bombed two camps of the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab insurgents in southern Somalia, the army said, days after the Islamists carried out their worst ever massacre in Kenya.
“We bombed two Shabaab camps in the Gedo region,” Kenyan army spokesman David Obonyo told AFP.
“The two targets were hit and taken out, the two camps are destroyed.”
The airstrikes follow threats by President Uhuru Kenyatta that he would retaliate “in the severest way possible” against the Shabaab militants for their attack on Thursday on a university in Kenya’s northeastern town of Garissa in which nearly 150 died.
There was no information given as to casualties in the bases hit.
The Shabaab gunmen launched the pre-dawn attack in Garissa, storming dormitory buildings before lining up non-Muslim students for execution in what Kenyatta described as a “barbaric medieval slaughter”.
The massacre, Kenya’s deadliest attack since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, claimed the lives of 142 students, three police officers and three soldiers.
Kenyan airplanes have made repeated strikes in southern Somalia since their troops crossed into their war-torn neighbour in October 2011 to attack Shabaab bases, with Nairobi later joining the African Union force (AMISOM) fighting the Islamists.
“The bombings are part of the continued process and engagement against Al-Shabaab, which will go on,” Obonyo added.
The Shebab fled their power base in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu in 2011, and continue to battle the AU force, AMISOM, sent to drive them out that includes troops from Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.
The group has carried out a string of revenge attacks in neighbouring countries, notably Kenya and Uganda, in response to their participation in the AU force.
On Saturday, Shabaab warned of a “long, gruesome war” unless Kenya withdrew its troops from Somalia, and threatened “another bloodbath”.
Shabaab fighters also carried out the Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi in September 2013, a four-day siege which left at least 67 people dead.
Five men have also been arrested in connection with the university attack, including three alleged “coordinators” captured as they fled towards Somalia, and two others in the university.
The two arrested on campus included a security guard and a Tanzanian found “hiding in the ceiling” and holding grenades, the interior ministry said.
A $215,000 (200,000 euro) bounty has also been offered for alleged Shaabab commander Mohamed Mohamud, a former Kenyan teacher said to be the mastermind behind the attack.
One of the Garissa attackers has also been identified as a Kenyan national.
Interior ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka named him as Abdirahim Abdullahi, saying he was “a university of Nairobi law graduate and described by a person who knows him well as a brilliant upcoming lawyer.”
The spokesman said Abdullahi’s father, a local official in Mandera County, had “reported to the authorities that his son had gone missing and suspected the boy had gone to Somalia”.
Boko Haram on the kill again
In Nigeria, meanwhile, suspected Boko Haram gunmen opened fire on villagers and torched a number of buildings in a new attack in northeast Nigeria, witnesses said Monday.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau holding up a flag as he delivers a message. (Photo AFP).
Resident Ahmad Ali told AFP that roughly two dozen assailants, who were “obviously Boko Haram fighters” stormed the village of Kwajaffa at dusk on Sunday and ordered residents out of their homes, and “opened fire on the crowd”.
Ali said the death toll likely passed two dozen but no other eye witnesses could be reached immediately to confirm the figures. Kwajaffa lies in the southern part of Borno state, one the regions hit hardest during Boko Haram’s deadly six-year uprising.
Details of attacks often take time to emerge, given the poor communications infrastructure in the embattled region.
Nigeria’s military—backed by forces from Chad, Niger and Cameroon—has claimed huge victories over Boko Haram in the northeast over the last two months, retaking a series of towns and villages previously under rebel control.
But experts have warned that hit-and-run attacks by the group could increase amid the added military pressure.
Buhari’s carrot and stick
The Islamist militants killed seven people going to a market in southern Chad on Friday, and then set improvised landmines on the road close to the Nigerian border. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s perceived mishandling of the Islamist insurgency was seen as a main reason for his overwhelming defeat in the northeast in last month’s general elections.
Nigeria’s president-elect Muhammadu Buhari will not take charge of the fight against Boko Haram until late May, but he has vowed to be a more effective commander-in-chief than Jonathan, in part by ensuring that the military is properly funded and equipped.
Aside from the use of force, Buhari has pledged to use so-called “soft power” to stem the killing, including much-needed development programmes targeted specifically at the impoverished region.