Kenya 'bombs al-Shabab bases' in Somalia

Amisom troops have been deployed to hunt for al-Shabab fighters in southern Somalia. Photo by Dominic Hurst. African Union troops have vowed to defeat the militants in Somalia

Kenyan fighter jets have bombed the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group in Somalia, killing more than 80 of its fighters, the African Union (AU) force in Somalia has said.

The assault on the villages of Anole and Kuday was part of an effort to "liberate" Somalia from al-Shabab's grip, the AU added.

Witnesses said a third area along the Kenya-Somalia border was also bombed.

Kenyan troops are part of the 22,000-strong AU force battling al-Shabab.

The militant group denied it had suffered casualties during the bombing campaign.

Al-Shabab fighters in  Mogadishu, Somalia (5 March 2012) Al-Shabab is fighting for an Islamic state in Somalia

Last week, it said it was behind a deadly raid on the Kenyan coastal town of Mpeketoni, adding that such attacks were in response to the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia.

'Troops ambushed'

Kenyan warplanes bombed al-Shabab bases in the villages of Anole and Kuday in Somalia's Lower Juba region, the AU force in Somalia said in a statement.

map

More than 50 insurgents were killed in Kuday and 30 in Anole as part of an on-going offensive to defeat al-Shabab, which had already lost control of 10 key towns, the statement said.

"Our forces will relentlessly keep up the pressure on al-Shabab and we will employ all the means at our disposal to end their reign of terror," it added.

The BBC's Ibrahim Aden in the capital, Mogadishu, says witnesses have also reported air strikes around the village of Kulbiyo, near the Kenya-Somalia border.

Fighter jets intervened after al-Shabab ambushed a convoy of Kenyan troops, witnesses said.

Clashes between the two sides lasted for several hours, they added.

Al-Shabab said a number of Kenyan troops had been killed and denied that more than 80 of its fighters had died in Anole and Kuday.

The bombs had fallen in empty forested areas, the group said.

Since 1991 Somalia has seen clan-based warlords, rival politicians and Islamist militants battle for control - a situation that has allowed lawlessness and piracy to flourish.

Since a UN-backed government was installed in 2012, a small measure of stability has returned to some areas of the country, but al-Shabab still controls many towns and rural areas of southern Somalia.

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