MOGADISHU (Reuters) - A warplane bombed a rebel-held town in southern Somalia on Saturday, hitting an empty feeding centre run by the Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS) and killing one civilian, residents said.
They could not identify who carried out the attack in the town of Baardheere. Kenya, which is eight weeks into a ground and air offensive to crush the al Shabaab rebel group, said on Saturday it had launched an air strike earlier this week on a compound nearby.
“The bomb hit a feeding centre run by the Red Crescent Society and a school building,” Hawa Abdillah Mo’alim told Reuters by telephone. “Fortunately it was not a food distribution day,” said the woman, a recipient of food aid herself.
The bomb destroyed the centre’s critical water tank, residents said. They also said the victim was a man, but no further details were available.
A Kenyan military spokesman was not available to comment.
An aid worker said the death toll would have been higher had the feeding centre been distributing food to displaced famine victims. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which supports the feeding centre, declined to comment.
Residents said al Shabaab had sealed off the area.
On Thursday, Kenya targeted a compound residents said was used by the militants as a training base. Kenyan Colonel Cyres Oguna told a news conference in Nairobi on Saturday the building was an ammunitions depot.
Kenyan troops crossed into Somalia almost two months ago after a wave of kidnappings and cross-border raids it blamed on the rebels.
Its forces initially advanced smoothly on militant towns in Somalia’s southern border regions but has since become bogged down by heavy rains and a lack of clear strategy, diplomats say. Kenyan air strikes have intensified in past weeks.
Analysts say that rather than confront Kenya’s military head on, the militants had melted into the population from where they launch hit-and-run attacks on the Kenyans.
Kenya wants its forces in Somalia to be integrated into the African Union AMISOM force that has about 9,400 peacekeepers deployed in Mogadishu.
Kenya will be pushing for a more robust “peace enforcement” mandate for its troops in southern Somalia than the peacekeeping mandate the Ugandan and Burundian troops operate under in Mogadishu, Oguna said.
However, becoming a part of AMISOM may not be straight forward, as issues of funding and command and control need to be resolved, and may take several months.