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Friday, January 27, 2017

Al-Shabaab claims to have killed 57 Kenyan soldiers in Somalia

The Islamist militant group al-Shabaab said Friday it had killed 57 Kenyan peacekeepers and taken their base in southern Somalia.

Kenya, however, said it had repelled the attack and killed "scores" of militants.

Two suicide bombers rammed two vehicles into an African Union military base in Kolbiyow in Lower Juba region in the morning, following which militants "engaged in a fierce face-to-face battle" against Kenyan soldiers, al-Shabaab said in a statement posted on its website SomaliMeMo.

The Kenyan Defence Ministry countered with a statement that "information being peddled by terrorists ... is false and part of their propaganda."

The statement admitted that al-Shabaab had attacked the Kolbiyow camp, using a suicide vehicle, but said that Kenyan soldiers "repulsed the terrorists, killing scores."

"An intensive pacification operation is under way, reinforced by our air and land forces," the statement added.

It was not yet clear whether the Kenyan army had suffered any casualties, Kenyan news website Capital News quoted army spokesman Paul Njuguna as saying.

"If it is confirmed that al-Shabaab killed 57 soldiers from Kenya, that would be a major blow to [the AU] military mission, which had stepped up operations against militants over the past couple of years," Somali security analyst Khalid Ahmed said.

There was no immediate response from AU military officials in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

In January 2016, al-Shabaab said it had killed more than 100 Kenyan soldiers in the Somali town of el-Adde, but Kenya never gave casualty figures.

Kenya contributes more than 3,600 troops to the 22,000-strong AU mission in Somalia, which is helping the government fight al-Shabaab.