Kenyan troops, part of the UN-backed African Union force in Somalia fighting the insurgents, were travelling northwards close to the Somali border when they were attacked.
“A firefight ensued and five suspected Shabab militants were killed,” army spokesman David Obonyo said in a statement, adding that one Kenyan soldier was killed and three others wounded.
“Some militants escaped with multiple injuries, and immediately an operation was launched in pursuit.” Kenyan troops entered southern Somalia in 2011 to fight the Shabab rebels, later joining the AU force.
Wednesday’s attack took place on the mainland in Lamu country near Basuba, over 60 kilometres north of Lamu island, a UNESCO World Heritage site dependent on tourism for its economy, that has been badly hit with visitors scared off by a string of attacks.
The Shabab are fighting to overthrow Somalia’s internationally-backed government, but have also carried out a string of revenge attacks in neighbouring Kenya.
Kenya’s government has been under fire since Shebab gunmen attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in September 2013, in which at least 67 people were killed.