Five Kenyan soldiers were killed Wednesday when their vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device in the eastern Lamu county in an attack claimed by al-Shabaab.
“The officers were on a light truck that ran over the IED and was badly destroyed and the officers died on the spot. Six others have been injured,” a senior police officer in Lamu told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Another police officer in Lamu confirmed the deaths but did not give any further information: “Yes it is true five soldiers were killed and six injured.”
Lieutenant Colonel Paul Njuguna, a spokesperson for Kenya’s Defence Forces, told Reuters that no soldiers were killed, but six were injured.
The attack, which police blamed on al-Qaeda aligned Somali Shabaab militants, took place on the road to the town of Bodhei near the Boni Forest, which the Islamists use as a refuge.
According the The Standard which first reported the incident, the vehicle was traveling from Baragoni towards Bodhei and was extensively damaged in the blast which occurred in a forested area.
The use of homemade explosives against police and army patrols in the border areas of northern and eastern Kenya near Somalia is relatively common.
Al-Shabaab claimed to have killed 11 soldiers in Lamu County as well as a Somali soldier in Lower Shabelle, the SITE Intelligence Group, monitoring the Shahada News Agency, said.
Reuters reported Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabaab’s military spokesperson as saying the group carried out the attack which he said killed nine.
The organization has claimed several such attacks in the past, in which dozens of Kenyan policemen and soldiers have died. On July 26, one police officer was killed and two others critically injured in an al-Shabaab attack in Lamu county.
Al-Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab has been fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu for over a decade.
They were pushed out of Somalia’s capital in 2011 and lost most of their strongholds, but they still control large rural areas from where they carry out guerrilla operations and suicide bombings, including in Mogadishu.
Wednesday’s blast came a day after the 20th anniversary of the attacks against the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998, which killed 224 people and marked the emergence of Al-Qaeda on the international stage.
With reporting from AFP