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Reports from the coastal village of Khandal, near the insurgent stronghold of Kismayo, indicate that a suspected US plane or helicopter launched missiles Thursday against an Islamist training camp 10km south of Kismayo, as well as an area where several foreign jihadist fighters were embarking on a boat on their way to an unknown destination.
Kismayo residents told Somalia Report that the first attack targeted the camp this afternoon, while a second attack was launched this evening against a target near Kismayo airport.
It is yet unclear whether the attack hit its targets or not, but residents who requested anonymity told a local journalist in Kismayo that they witnessed smoke in the air and heard planes flying throughout Thursday. In addition, the witnesses said that three 4-wheel drive pick up trucks with wounded al-Shabaab fighters were immediately taken to Kismayo, and that the militants have imposed on an overnight curfew.
“One attack happened around evening prayers, around 7:00 to 8:00pm local time,” said Mohamed Mohamed, a Kismayo resident. He said that the operation resulted in scores of casualties including senior al-Shabaab militants in the area.
“No one knows who was killed but there are serious casualties, that I can confirm,” Mohamed said.
“We heard this evening blasts in the airport area. After that al-Shabaab banned movements so now I’m in my house. I can’t go out because al-Shabaab militia are scattered about all the streets,” said Abdisalaam, a resident in Kismayo.
“I also heard that another airstrike targeted the main training camp, 10 kilometer south of Kismayo,” added Abdisalaam.
Al-Shabaab military officer in Kismayo confirmed the attack and told Somalia Report that two of their soldiers were injured.
“I believe the enemy of Allah shelled the Mujahideen bases in Kismayo area using airplanes and two of the Mujahideen were injured, but we did not suffer any serious casualties,” said the officer on condition of anonymity “
“It’s not the first time they shelled us: one, two, three, all the infidels of the world want to fight against us. They use airplanes, warships, and everything they can, but Allah is with us so there is nothing they can do against us,” added the officer.
Al-Shabaab's Kismayo Commissioner Sheikh Hassan Yacqub told al-Shabaab-run radio station, Al Andalus that al-Shabaab will withstand any foreign threat.
A terrified resident in Khandal told our correspondent a plane had been flying over the area since yesterday in a suspected reconnaissance mission.
“I am shocked that this big thing happened. What I can see are al-Shabaab fighters everywhere in the city. Everyone remained indoors, terrified,” a local women told Somalia Report.
Khandal has been a key hiding and training point for the militants, particularly foreign fighters, due to its strategic location.
The Somali Deputy Defence Minister Abdirashid Mohamed Hidig said that the government was aware of the attack.
"Nothing is done without the knowledge of the government of Somalia; the attacks were conducted in coordination with Somali TFG forces and friendly countries," he said.
More aerial attacks will be launched and we shall paralyze all al-Shabaab operations using all means possible, he added.