Witness: Jets kill 'at least' 9 in Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- At least nine people were killed after jets bombed a militant camp in southern Somalia, a witness said Tuesday.
The jets pounded bunkers, vehicles and tents belonging to Somalia's al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militia, said witness Noh Haji, who works as a charcoal maker in the area. He said he saw at least nine bodies being carried out by al-Shabab fighters after the raid on the town of Afmadow late Monday.
The raid in Afmadow came a day after residents said jets killed five children and two fighters in Jilib, another southern Somali town. A Kenyan military spokesman confirmed the Jilib raid but only said it killed militants. He was not available for comment on the Afmadow raid.
"I heard explosions one after the other after planes roared over us. Then I walked toward there and saw a huge fire and billowing smoke," Haji, the witness, told The Associated Press. "After some minutes I saw at least nine dead bodies being carried in stretchers and carried by al-Shabab men with their hands ... . It was a big attack."
Al-Shabab sealed off the area after the attack, he said.
A spokesman for the militant group said the Jilib raid proved that Kenya was trying to kill Muslims.
"You see their aim is merely about killing all the Muslims, not only al-Shabab," Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage told reporters late on Monday. "Therefore, let's take our arms and defend our children and families against the enemy."
Kenyan troops entered Somalia in October amid fears that Somalia's 21-year-old civil war was spilling over the border, threatening Kenya's security. But Kenya's advance has been slow, despite regular bombing raids. They have yet to fight a pitched battle with al-Shabab, and the militia has been employing hit-and-run tactics in the face of superior firepower.
Afmadow is the next major town the Kenyans will have to take on their way to Kismayo, the port city whose revenues provide the backbone of the insurgency.
Somalia has not had a functioning government for 21 years. Al-Shabab now faces hostile militaries on three sides: Ethiopian troops in the west, Kenyan troops in the south, and Ugandan and Burundian troops in Mogadishu.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)