An air strike targeting a convoy of vehicles in southern Somalia has killed at least six members of the al-Shabaab Islamist militant group, including foreigners, local media reports citing witnesses said on Friday.
At least two vehicles were reported to have been destroyed in the aerial attack, which took place in an area known as K60 as it is located about 60 kilometers south of the Somali capital Mogadishu.
Witnesses were quoted as saying that the militants killed in the attack included several Kenyan nationals as well as Europeans. Their accounts are yet to be verified and it is still unclear who carried out the air strike.
Kenyan troops, who are currently in Somalia as part of a cross-border operation aimed at driving al-Shabaab militants away from the border separating the two nations, regularly carry out such air strikes on al-Shabaab targets.
The U.S. military is also known to have carried out several missile strikes on al-Qaeda militants in Somalia from its base in neighboring Djibouti. But militaries of Kenya and the United States are yet to confirm or deny involvement in Friday's air strike.
Al-Shabaab is Somalia's most prominent and influential Islamist militant unit and is branded a terrorist organization by the United States and most of the international community. The al-Qaeda aligned outfit is the military wing of the Islamist movement ousted by Ethiopia-backed Somali forces in 2006.
The latest development came after Somali interim Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohammed Ali called for air strikes against al-Shabaab militants while addressing an international conference on Somalia in London.
But in her address to the same conference, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rejected the Somali PM's call, stating that there was no case for that kind of action. She, however, ruled out talks with al-Shabaab, pointing out that the recent move by the militant group to align itself with the al-Qaeda showed that the outfit "is not on the side of peace, stability or the Somali people".
World leaders attending the conference promised their full support in bringing peace and stability to the conflict-stricken Horn of Africa nation, and pledged further aids to tackle its humanitarian requirements, Islamist militancy as well as piracy.
Somalia has been without a functioning government since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre's government in 1991. Currently, the weak UN-backed interim government set up in 2004 is trying to enforce its authority in Somalia.
AU peacekeepers and forces loyal to the interim government have managed to take control of Mogadishu and adjoining areas in recent months. Nevertheless, al-Shabaab and other allied groups still control large areas in southern Somalia where they enforce strict Islamic laws or Sharia.
Earlier this week, the United Nations Security Council had called for increasing the number of AU peacekeepers deployed in Somalia to 17,731 from its current strength of 12,000, and decided to expand the UN's logistical support package to the force and extend it until October 31.
by RTT Staff Writer
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