Fri Dec 2, 2011 5:55pm GMT
MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Fighter jets bombed an Islamist militant base in southern Somalia on Friday, residents and soldiers said, as neighbouring Kenya continued its offensive against the rebels.
Kenya, which has carried out air strikes in the past, did not immediately acknowledge responsibility. Its troops entered Somalia almost two months ago vowing to wipe out the al Shabaab rebel group it accuses of being behind attacks on tourists, aid workers and security forces on its soil.
"We heard sounds of the jets and then bombs. We understood later that they were targeting an al Shabaab base in Ceel Ade village," Ali Keyre Mohamed, a local resident, told Reuters.
"We don't know the casualties as a result of the bombardment," he said.
A Kenyan military spokesman told Reuters he would investigate the reports.
An African Union peacekeeping force is largely responsible for keeping Somalia's weak transitional government from falling to al Shabaab in the capital. The Horn of Africa nation has not had a fully-functioning government since warlords toppled military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
Government troops, who are attacking the rebels alongside the Kenyans in southern Somalia, confirmed the airstrike to Reuters, saying that two jets had dropped several bombs.
Al Shabaab said it had provoked the airstrikes with a successful attack on a Kenyan position earlier on Friday.
"They dropped six bombs. Four civilians died and 35 others were injured," Sheikh Abdiaziz Abu Muscab, an al Shabaab spokesman, told Reuters.
"They took to the jets after we fought them and gave them an unforgettable lesson early this morning. Our fighters were not there. We are based nowhere."
Though Kenya's advance on the militants started rapidly, it stalled quickly with its military blaming mud and heavy rains. Al Shabaab fighters say their daily hit-and-run raids and ambushes are hampering the campaign.