Kenya launches air raids against Al-Shabaab

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Commander-in-Chief of Kenya’s armed forces President Uhuru Kenyatta and Chief of Kenya Defence Forces General Julius Karangi at a past military function. KDF planes yesterday bombed Al-Shabaab bases in the Gedo region of Somalia. – Nation Media Group

NAIROBI. – Kenyan fighter jets yesterday bombed two Al-Shabaab camps in southern Somalia, the army said, days after the Islamists carried out their worst ever massacre in Kenya.“We bombed two Shebab 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 air strikes follow threats by President Uhuru Kenyatta that he would retaliate “in the severest way possible” against the Al-Qaeda-linked militants for their attack on Thursday on Garissa University College in which nearly 150 died.

There was no information given as to casualties in the bases hit.

Al-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.

Kenya’s airplanes have made repeated strikes in southern Somalia since its troops crossed into its war-torn neighbour in 2011 to attack Al-Shabaab bases, with Nairobi later joining the African Union force fighting the Islamists.

“The bombings are part of the continued process and engagement against Al-Shabaab, which will go on,” Obonyo added.

The militants fled their power base in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu in 2011, and continue to battle the AU force, Amisom, sent to drive them out and 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, Al-Shabaab warned of a “long, gruesome war” unless Kenya withdrew its troops from Somalia, and threatened “another bloodbath”.

Al-Shebaab fighters also carried out the Westgate Shopping Mall attack in Nairobi in September 2013, a four-day siege that left at least 67 people   dead.

Five men have also been arrested in connection with the university attack, including three alleged “co-ordinators” 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 bounty has also been offered for alleged Al-Shabaab commander Mohamed Mohamud, a former Kenyan teacher said to be the mastermind behind the attack.

In a related development, Xinhua news agency reported that the latest findings of the probe into a recent terror attack have aggravated concern that terror threats facing the country are increasingly localised.

The Kenyan Interior Ministry confirmed on Sunday that a law graduate from a comfortable Kenyan family was among the four gunmen who slaughtered 148 people at Garissa University on Thursday. All attackers were killed by a SWAT team flown to Garissa.

The particular gunman, identified as Abdirahim Mohammed Abdullahi, was the son of a government chief in Mandera County, Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka said.  – AFP/Xinhua.

Abdullahi, who was an ethnic Somali, graduated with honours from the law school at Kenya University in 2013 and was described as “a talented lawyer-to-be” by people familiar with him.
According to the spokesman, Abdullahi’s father reported to the authority last year that his son went missing and he feared the young man had gone to Somalia. The father had been assisting the police looking for his son before the college terror attack.
Media reports cited an unnamed official in Garissa County as saying that the local government was aware that Abdullahi joined Somalia-based and al-Qaeda-linked Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab after graduation.
The group said Saturday that the Garissa attack was to avenge the deaths of fighters killed by Kenyan troops in Somalia, and it warned that it will launch more attacks in Kenya.
Earlier investigation into the Garissa attack has led to the arrests of five suspects, one of whom is a security guard working for Garissa University.
The security guard, also an ethnic Somali, may have played a role in assisting the four attackers to enter the college compound. Police investigation also found that he possesses materials propagandising extremist ideas.
Three of the five suspects in custody were nabbed at the Somali border on Friday while they were trying to flee.
Although the identities of the three other gunmen have not been confirmed yet, it is highly likely that they were also Kenyan nationals since they spoke the official language, Swahili, fluently during the almost 12-hour rampage at the university, according to recounts of survivors.
The sponsors and fund providers for such extremist attacks are “deeply rooted” in the Kenyan society, said Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday, the first day of a three-day national mourning. – AFP/Xinhua