Kenyan Fighter Jets Bomb Al-Shabaab Targets in Somalia

Kenyan Fighter Jets Bomb Al-Shabaab Targets in Somalia

On Sunday, the Kenyan government attacked what is believed to be an explosions-making compound in Jilib, Somalia, run by the militant Islamist group al-Shabaab. The attack follows a series of bombings in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, that left 12 people dead.

According to Bloomberg, the attacks are part of a greater African Union military project to eradicate the group. Kenya announced the target attack through military spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir, who tweeted the news. Jilib became a target because it is believed to house a number of radical Islamist militants affiliated with al-Shabaab.

The estimates of the damage vary. Bloomberg cites Mohamed Abdi Kalil, the governor of Gedo, Somalia, who told them that there were no casualties, and that the targets were “farmlands on the outskirts of Jilib.” Jilib itself is considered an urban area, one of the few remaining, dangerously susceptible to influence from terror groups that use it as a refuge. Chinese news outlet Xinhua quotes an eyewitness testimony from a villager who said that villagers heard “planes flying low overhead, then three or more explosions in Maanyo-Gaabo,” and that no one in town had any further information on whether anyone was injured in the attacks. 

Istanbul’s World Bulletin cites another eyewitness who claims that three vehicles were destroyed in the strike, but the camp was “vacant” when attacked. The eyewitness says, however, that al-Shabaab militants appeared during the attack to “cordon off the camp’s perimeter.”

Al-Shabaab has increasingly posed a problem for East Africa. The group, which operated as a jihadist cell independently, merged with al Qaeda in 2012 and has since been affiliated with the group as one of its African wings. The group has also extended its support to Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram, which has become increasingly active and violent, not only in Nigeria’s mostly Muslim northeast, but throughout the country.

Australia’s ABC notes that the African Union has begun to target Somalia aggressively as a stronghold for the jihadist group, sending a “400-strong ‘defensive’ guard force of Ugandan troops based at the heavily fortified Mogadishu airport,” intended to protect United Nations staff engaging in humanitarian work in the country. Al-Shabaab has also increasingly targeted humanitarian workers in the region recently.

Kenya’s attack follows a series of bombings in Nairobi this weekend, which killed ten or twelve people, depending on estimates. The bombing was not out of character for al-Shabaab, also suspected of a bombing on another series of buses two weeks before this one that killed at least 60 people.