Air strike hits rebel-held Somali village: residents

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 20, 2011 3:34 PM
Air strike hits rebel-held Somali village: residents

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - A warplane bombed a Somali village held by Islamist rebels near the border with Kenya Tuesday, killing several civilians, residents and a Somali military official said.

It was not immediately possible to identify who carried out the attack in the village of Hosungow near the area of Dhobley, which is under the control of Somali government and Kenyan troops as well as a militia allied to Somalia's government.

But neighboring Kenya, which sent troops across the border into Somalia to crush the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants, has intensified its air strikes in recent weeks since the ground-and-air offensive began in October.

"The jet first dropped bombs in the suburbs of the village ... but then returned in the afternoon, dropping bombs in the village's center. Parts of the village, especially shops, are now burning," Hosungow resident Mohamed Gelle told Reuters.

Another resident, Bakar Hussein, described a similar sequence of events saying a jet first bombed the suburb then later returned to strike the village center.

The residents gave different numbers for those dead, saying between 12 and 14 civilians had been killed.

"Casualties were taken to their homes since there are no hospitals," Hussein said.

A Kenyan military spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

The spokesman for Somalia's government forces in Dhobley confirmed an air strike took place not far from the militant-controlled Hosungow.

"The target was a military base and training camp for al Shabaab. We do not know the loss but there was big damage," Mahmud Farah told Reuters.

Al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab said a jet had targeted the group in the village but denied suffering any casualties and said nine civilians had been killed.

Kenyan troops crossed into Somalia in October after a wave of kidnappings and cross-border raids it blamed on the rebels who control large swathes of southern and central Somalia.

Its forces initially advanced smoothly on militant towns in Somalia's southern border regions but have since become bogged down by heavy rains and a lack of clear strategy.

The militants have adopted a strategy of melting into the population from where they can launch hit-and-run attacks on Kenyans, rather than confront the army head on.

Kenya wants its forces in Somalia to be integrated into the African Union AMISOM force that has peacekeepers in Mogadishu. Tuesday, the first of a 900-strong Djiboutian force arrived to augment the African peacekeeping force.

(Reporting by Mohamed Ahmed and Feisal Omar in Mogadishu; Sahra Abdi in Nairobi; Writing by Yara Bayoumy)