The Kenyan air force has bombed two al Shabaab camps in Somalia, a defence force source said on Monday, in the first major military response to last week’s attack by the militant group on a Kenyan university.
Gunmen from the al Qaeda-aligned group killed 148 people on Thursday when they stormed the Garissa University College campus, some 200 km (120 miles) from the Somali border.
Al Shabaab has now killed more than 400 people on Kenyan soil in the last two years, including 67 people at the Westgate shopping mall in a 2013 siege. The latest violence has piled pressure on President Uhuru Kenyatta to stop the militants’ gun and grenade attacks.
Jets pounded the camps in Gondodowe and Ismail, both in the Gedo region bordering Kenya, on Sunday, the Kenyan Defence Forces source said. Cloud cover made it difficult to establish how much damage the bombings caused or estimate the death toll.
“We targeted the two areas because according to information we have, those (al Shabaab) fellows are coming from there to attack Kenya,” he said.
An African Union peacekeeping force that includes Kenyan troops, and which is fighting the group in Somalia, carried out arrests and seized ammunition in an al Shabaab camp in Gondodowe last August.
Kenya has struggled to stop the flow of al Shabaab militants and weapons across its 700 km (450 mile) border with Somalia. The violence has also damaged Kenya’s economy by scaring away tourists and investors.
One of the four gunmen who attacked the university was a son of a Kenyan government official from Mandera county, which borders Somalia’s Gedo region. Abdirahim Abdullahi, an ethnic Somali, was reporting missing by his father after he crossed into Somalia to join al Shabaab.
Kenyatta said on Saturday the planners and financiers of Islamist attacks are “deeply embedded” within Kenyan society and urged the Muslim community to do more to root out radicalisation.
PULL OUT OF SOMALIA
In the capital Nairobi, where local media have become increasingly critical of what they call a bungled security response to the Garissa attack, dozens of grieving families are still trying to identify bodies at the city’s mortuary.
“(The security services) waited too long and the terrorists had so much time to kill our kids,” said Isaac Mutisya, whose 23-year-old daughter Risper Mutindi Kasyoka, is among the dead.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who was Prime Minister when Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 to battle al Shabaab, said the government should start thinking about pulling out, just as the United States withdrew troops after 18 soldiers were killed in the 1993 Black Hawk Down incident in Mogadishu.
“The U.S. used to have many soldiers in Somalia but it recalled them. Kenya should also remove its military officers from Somalia,” Odinga said on Sunday, according to comments in Monday’s edition of Kenya’s Standard newspaper.
Kenya has so far shown no inclination to pull out of Somalia where its troops, part of an U.N.-backed African Union peacekeeping mission, have wrestled swathes of territory from the Islamist group.
Western diplomats, however, say this loss of territory has not weakened al Shabaab’s capacity to carry out one-off guerilla-style attacks in Somalia or further abroad.
Garissa was the most deadly attack on Kenyan soil since al Qaeda bombed the U.S. embassy in Nairobi in 1998, killing more than 200 people and wounding thousands of others.