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Kenyan airstrike in Somalia kills at least 30 al-Shabaab leaders, official says

NAIROBI – At least 30 commanders of the al-Shabaab Islamist militia are dead after a Kenyan airstike inside Somalia, a Kenyan army spokesman said Friday.

A Somali military official had earlier put the death toll at 11 after the Thursday attack.

The Kenyan warplane struck at Garbaharey, the capital of Gedo region, about 520 kilometres southwest of Mogadishu.

It was targeting a meeting of the al-Shabaab command with 50 people in attendance, Kenyan army spokesman Colonel Cyrus Oguna told Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

The Kenyan army was still assessing the result, but 30 deaths have been confirmed, the spokesman said.

The attack was carried out after making sure that no civilians were in the targeted area, according to Oguna.

He said Kenya acted “in full consultation” with African Union forces in Somalia.

Al-Shabaab has not commented on the strike. Residents confirmed loud explosions were heard in the area.

The attack came as the Somali government said it was planning operations to take back more territory held by the Islamist militia in the area.

Although al-Shabaab has been on the back foot for the past several years, the group still controls large swaths of land in rural Somalia and is able to carry out bombings in key cities such as Mogadishu.

Kenyan forces moved into southern Somalia in 2011, after a string of attacks on its territory.

Kenyan forces have stepped up operations in areas including Garbaharey since al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack on a Nairobi shopping mall that left 67 people dead in September.

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