UPDATE 1-Dozens killed in southern Somalia clash

Tue Dec 6, 2011 3:42pm GMT
 

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NAIROBI Dec 6 (Reuters) - Dozens of Islamist militants and 11 Somali government troops were killed in weekend fighting in the town of Hayo, southern Somalia, and Kenyan jets have launched new air strikes on rebel bases, a Kenyan military spokesman said on Tuesday.

Emmanuel Chichir said Kenyan forces were not involved in Saturday's fighting in Hayo, which lies between the Kenyan border and the rebel stronghold of Afmadow.

Kenya is eight weeks into an offensive inside Somalia to crush the al Shabaab rebel group's networks, but the military campaign has become bogged down by heavy rains and lack of clear strategy, diplomats say.

"(Kenyan) jets targeted two al Shabaab camps south of Afmadow town, killing a number of al Shabaab fighters, and destroyed technical vehicles," Chirchir said, referring to the machine gun-mounted trucks used by the militants.

An assessment of the damage caused by the aerial bombardment would follow, he said.

A lawmaker from Somalia's Lower Juba region that borders Kenya and nearby residents said al Shabaab had only clung on to Hayo for a few hours.

"The rebels took control briefly before we (Somali forces) took over again," Abdirashid Mahmed said, citing a pro-Mogadishu militia leader whose combatants are fighting along side government forces.

On Tuesday, a car bomb exploded yards from the Turkish embassy in the Somali capital, the latest in a wave of deadly attacks in the coastal city. (Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by David Clarke and Maria Golovnina)

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