Kenyan troops in Somalia clashed with Al-Shabaab fighters on Wednesday in one of the bloodiest encounters yet, in which two KDF soldiers and 73 militiamen were killed.
Hundreds of the Shabaab fighters attacked a KDF base at Fahfahdhun in Gedo, prompting the 7pm fight resulting in the highest number of casualties reported since the incursion into Somalia in October last year.
Military sources said Al-Shabaab had planned to overrun the camp but KDF troops, who had received prior intelligence reports on the attack, lay in wait for combat.
An hour into the fight, military spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir posted on his official Twitter account that KDF had “successfully” resisted the attack and that “a good number of Al-Shabaab” had been killed.
Three soldiers, who sustained injuries in the battle, were on Thursday airlifted to Nairobi for treatment.
An assortment of automatic rifles including AK-47 and pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns were seized by the Kenyan forces.
Separately, the Special Representative of the chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia, Mr Boubacar Diarra, on Thursday said troops fighting in Somalia under Amisom had ensured that civilians were protected from combat.
“Amisom takes its responsibility for the safety of the people of Somalia very seriously and fully understands its obligations to conduct operations without causing undue risk to the local population,” he said.
The official further called for investigations into media reports that civilians had been killed after air raids in Kismayu, the remaining Al-Shabaab stronghold, earlier in the week.
Al-Shabaab had used Twitter to publish photographs of what it said were victims of air raids by KDF, showing images of a dead boy and two others with injuries.
Mr Diarra said that Amisom did not have any forces in the port city.
“We urge all other military forces to exercise due restraint in areas with a substantial civilian population,” said Mr Diarra.
At the same time, the official urged Somali security forces to allow all candidates to conduct peaceful campaigns ahead of elections expected later in the month.
“When called upon and depending on the availability of resources, Amisom may provide secure transport to key personalities via its armoured convoys. This should not be construed as endorsement of their candidature,” he said.
The region’s soldiers’ successes over the past year include the liberation of the capital Mogadishu from the brutal rule of Al-Shabaab in August last year.
Most recently, KDF captured Afmadow and the battle for Kismayu is expected to take place by August 20.