Kenya records another victory over al-Shabaab

This handout photograph released by the African Union-United Nations Information Support Team on October 3, 2012 shows alleged suspects of the Al-Qaeda linked group Al Shabaab guarded at a former police station. Photo: AFP

 NAIROBI - The Kenyan army has reported that it killed a Somali al-Shabaab regional commander and possibly also a Briton who joined the militants, during fighting over the weekend.

Eleven Somali militants and two Kenyan soldiers were killed when al Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab fighters attacked a military base in Kenya's northern coastal region of Lamu County, Kenyan defence officials said on Monday. 

Al-Shabaab has since confirmed the weekend attack, saying "many Kenyan soldiers were killed", without giving numbers.  

The militant group, which often cites a higher death toll than officials, gave no details about any al-Shabaab members killed. 

Among those killed was al-Shabaab's Luqman Osman Issa, also known as Shirwa, who is blamed for leading attacks on Kenya's Mpeketoni area a year ago.

According to Kenyan Defence Forces spokesman Colonel David Obonyo, the Mpeketoni attack claimed the lives of  65 people.

"This is a big victory for us and also a major setback for al-Shabaab because now there is no mainstream commander in the Lamu area," he told Reuters, adding Shirwa's body was being held in mortuary in Mpeketoni.

He also said the dead may have included Thomas Evans, also known as Abdul Hakim, a Briton in his mid-20s who converted to Islam during his late teens and later joined al-Shabaab.

Obonyo said data about Evans and pictures which were publicly available "pointed at him".

"But we cannot be certain because sometimes looks can be deceiving. The necessary forensic investigations are being done including a DNA test I understand," he said, adding that police were carrying out the tests.

Obonyo said another man of apparently Caucasian or Arab origin was among the dead, while the others killed appeared to be from the region.

Al-Shabaab, is seeking to overthrow the Western-backed Somali government and impose its strict interpretation of Islamic law.

In recent years the group has frequently targeted neighbouring Kenya in apparent retaliation at Kenya's participation in an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia.

In April, al-Shabaab militants raided a university in the northern Kenyan city of Garissa, killing nearly 150 students, and in September 2013 militants killed at least 67 people in an attack on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall.


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