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Kenyan jets bomb Somali rebel base, kill 14

MYT 12:45:00 AM

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Kenyan jets bombed an al Shabaab rebel base in southern Somalia Sunday, killing a family of seven as well as seven fighters from the insurgent group linked to al Qaeda, residents said.

Kenya sent troops into anarchic Somalia in October after raids and kidnappings it blamed on al Shabaab, but the advance has slowed and regional insecurity is no better. Somali rebels killed seven people in an attack inside Kenya last week.

The jets bombed an al Shabaab base at Jilib, 120 km (75 miles) north of Kismayu, the port city which is the nerve-centre of rebel operations in the Horn of Africa country.

Residents and an al Shabaab spokesman said seven fighters were killed. Five children and their parents died when a bomb hit their home as they were sitting down to lunch.

"We are now collecting what is left of their bodies," Sultun Abdullahi Wayo Arag, a clan leader and close relative told Reuters by phone from the scene of the strike.

A spokesman for the Western-backed Somali government's army, Mahmud Farah, said two al Shabaab bases had been targeted by their Kenyan allies. He acknowledged some civilian deaths.

There was no immediate comment from Kenya's army, which said Saturday it had advanced within striking distance of Kismayu, and would make its move when the time was right.

Kenyan forces pushed into Somalia after raids that threatened the tourism industry in East Africa's biggest economy and wider regional destabilisation. Kenya's army reckons as many as 500 Kenyans are fighting with al Shabaab.

Neighbouring Ethiopia has also sent troops into Somalia to back its shaky government, which holds the capital Mogadishu with the help of an African Union peacekeeping force.

In Beledweyne, a town near the Ethiopian border which was captured by the Ethiopians about two weeks ago, a Somali official said police had found the remains of up to 40 people killed over the past year.

"We must liberate the rest of the country as quickly as possible, before we witness even more and much worse insanity from al Shabaab," said deputy information minister Abdullahi Bile Noor.

Government forces and rebels said an al Shabaab fighter hurled a hand grenade at an Ethiopian camp in Beledweyne late on Saturday. A soldier said there were no casualties. Al Shabaab said the attack killed an Ethiopian soldier.

(Additional reporting by Sahra Abdi in Nairobi, Abdi Sheikh in Mogadishu; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

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