Kenya’s army has said it killed al-Shabab’s intelligence chief and another 10 of the armed group’s commanders in an air strike in Somalia.
Al-Shabab, however, denied the claim, saying Mahad Karate, a top commander also responsible for the group’s internal security, and his colleagues were “safe and sound” and that the air strikes did not happen.
Kenyan troops, who are part of an African Union force in Somalia (AMISOM) fighting al-Shabab, claimed to have killed Karate in a strike at an al-Shabab training camp on February 8.
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“The Kenya Defence Forces, under AMISOM operations, would like to confirm that Mahad Mohammed Karate… and 10 other middle-level commanders were killed in a major KDF strike in southern Somalia,” a Kenyan army statement said on Thursday.
“The killing … is a major blow to the terrorist group,” the statement said.
Al Jazeera could not independently verify the deaths but al-Shabab described the Kenyan report as “lies”.
“The person they claimed they killed is safe and sound. None of our camps have been attacked in any way. They are telling lies to please their people after we killed their troops in El-Adde,” the group’s military operations spokesman, Abdiaziz Abu Mus’ab, told Al Jazeera.
Al-Shabab’s intelligence wing has been involved in suicide attacks and assassinations in Somalia, Kenya and other surrounding countries. It provides logistics and support for the group’s operations throughout the Horn of Africa.
The US government had placed a $5m bounty on Karate.
A US Rewards for Justice wanted notice said: “Karate, also known as Abdirahman Mohamed Warsame, played a key role in the Amniyat, the wing of the Shabab responsible for assassinations and the April 2, 2015 attack on Garissa University College.”
The armed group aims to overthrow Somalia’s central government and establish a state based on its interpretation of Islamic law.
The group was pushed out of Mogadishu by African Union peacekeeping forces in 2011.
With additional reporting by Hamza Mohamed