Kenyan troops battle militants in southern Somalia
12/31/2011 1:30:01 AM -
NAIROBI (AFP) - Kenyan troops clashed with Somalia's Al-Qaeda linked Shebab militants leaving several dead, the latest casualties in weeks of dragging conflict in southern Somalia, officials and insurgents said Friday.
One Kenyan soldier died after troops attacked a Shebab base at Beles Qoqani some 60 kilometres (40 miles) into Somalia, killing five militants and leaving "many wounded," said Kenyan army spokesman Major Emmanuel Chirchir.
However, the hardline Shebab claimed to have ambushed Kenyan troops on Thursday with an explosive device, forcing a Kenyan armoured vehicle to stop.
"Upon stopping to survey the damage, a hail of bullets waylaid the inexperienced boys," the insurgents said in a Twitter message, claiming to have killed 11 Kenyans but making no mention of their own casualties.
None of the casualty reports could be independently verified, but the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported over 100 wounded in the frontline clinics they support in recent days.
"More than 100 wounded people, mainly civilians, reached the medical facilities during the most recent phase of the fighting," said ICRC nurse Randi Jensen in a statement.
"It has become very dangerous for patients to reach the few clinics available to them, and we just don't know how many more wounded are still out there, desperately waiting to get help," Jensen added.
Kenya sent troops across the border into Somalia in October to battle the hardline militants it blamed for a spate of attacks on home soil, and are fighting alongside Somali pro-government forces.
The Shebab insurgents control large parts of central and southern Somalia but are facing increasing pressure from government forces and regional armies.
The ICRC has sent emergency medical supplies to both sides of the frontline between Kenyan forces and the Shebab, including to the insurgent-held port city of Kismayo, as well as to Afmadow and Dobley.
The Horn of Africa country has been ravaged by a nearly uninterrupted civil war since the 1991 ouster of president Mohamed Siad Barre sparked vicious bloodletting by rival militias fighting for power.