Residents flee Somali rebel enclave after air attack
Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:14pm GMT
* One missile may have targeted rebel camp - residents
* Militants say no casualties
* Kenya says not responsible for attack (Adds Kenyan army spokesman, African
By Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar
MOGADISHU, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Scores of residents fled a Somali rebel
stronghold close to the capital on Monday after what appeared to be a
night-time missile strike aimed at a militant base.
People in the town of Afgoye, about 30 km (20 miles) from the capital
Mogadishu, heard a loud explosion late on Sunday from the direction of a
known al Shabaab base, housed in former government buildings.
Residents said there had been insurgent activity in the area on Sunday amid
rumours that top rebel commanders were meeting.
"I am sure there was a meeting going on in the base near the orphanage.
Armoured cars and expensive 4x4s were buzzing around yesterday afternoon,"
resident Osman Odowa told Reuters.
"One of the missiles struck right around there," Odowa said from Afgoye, a
strategic junction on the road leading from the capital to the south of the
Horn of Africa nation.
Another resident said the rebels had sealed off the area.
Kenya, which sent hundreds of troops across its border into Somalia five
weeks ago to crush the Islamist militants and has threatened air strikes on
rebel enclaves, denied involvement.
"We did not carry out that attack," Kenya army spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir
An al Shabaab official who declined to be named said two missiles were fired
from warships off the coast and there were no casualties. It was not
possible to verify his account.
POWER BEYOND CAPITAL?
The African Union (AU) said on Monday its peacekeeping force, AMISOM, would
receive an extra 1,150 troops from Burundi and Djibouti by mid-December,
taking the total to around 11,000 -- near the 12,000 authorised by the
The peacekeepers have prevented al Shabaab from expelling the government
from its foothold in the capital. Kenya wants to dismantle the rebel network
it blames for a wave of kidnappings and cross-border attacks, and the time
is ripe to extend the government's power beyond Mogadishu, the AU said.
"For the first time, we are now realistically envisioning the (government)
extending its political reach and authority beyond Mogadishu," AU
Commissioner for Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra told reporters in Addis
After a fairly smooth advance, the Kenyan forces fighting al Shabaab have
camped near several rebel strongholds, but have had no serious clashes with
the insurgents, and have not seized any significant bases.
It was not clear who did launch Sunday's strike. The United States has used
drones in the past to attack top al Shabaab officials. In 2008, a drone
attack killed Aden Hashi Ayro, said at the time to be al Qaeda's boss in the
Horn of Africa.
A fleet of foreign naval vessels is also patrolling the strategic sealanes
off Somalia, where pirates prey on commercial vessels and private yachts,
holding them for ransom.
"I have already evacuated and am now passing the town of Elasha,"
mother-of-five Samira Farah told Reuters, referring to the al
Shabaab-controlled town 17 km from the capital. "Mogadishu is our
A column of minibuses laden with mattresses was following, she said. "Who
dares to stay in a place which is a target of planes and warships?" she
said. (Additional reporting by Richard Lough in Nairobi and Aaron Maasho in
Addis Ababa; Writing by Richard Lough; editing by Tim Pearce)
C Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved
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Received on Mon Nov 14 2011 - 19:20:28 EST