Late Sunday night, April 5, 2015 through Monday morning, Kenya began launching attacks against Al Shabaab camps in Somalia. Kenya’s air force used fighter planes to bomb the Gondodowe and Ismail camps in the Gedo region. According to satellite aerial images, the camps were successfully destroyed.
A military spokesman for Kenya stated that the two camps were targeted because it is believed that al Shabaab crossed the border from Somalia into Kenya from those camps in order to launch attacks.
Last Thursday, al Shabaab gunmen killed 148 people, nearly all students, during an attack on Garissa University in eastern Kenya. One of the gunmen was identified as Abdirahim Abdullahi, the son of a Kenyan government official. The son had reportedly joined al Shabaab in 2013 after graduating. Al Shabaab’s assaults in Kenya have killed more than 400 people since April 2013.
Garissa residents felt that the Kenyan government was not doing enough to respond to the attacks. They expressed anger at the time it took for security services to show up during the attack and feel that the response had been mediocre. Security in the city was raised, with military vehicles patrolling, but the citizens wanted more. Because of al Shabaab’s threats to make Kenyan cities “red with blood”, the government has also stepped up security in the capital, Nairobi, at shopping malls and public buildings.
The attack on the Gondodowe and Ismail camps was Kenya’s first major response to the most recent al-Shabaab attacks. However, spokesman Col. David Obonyo says the air strikes were not solely in response to the Garissa attacks and in fact had been planned prior to the shooting.
While Kenya says they have confirmation that the camps were destroyed, al-Shabaab denies that the bombs hit the camps. Instead al-Shabaab is reporting that the bombs landed on farmland. Al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, Sheik Abdiasis Abu Musab alleged that none of the bases were targeted or damaged.
Al Shabaab has been losing territory all throughout Somalia in the past couple of years. But despite reports that the loss of territory has weakened them, al Shabaab remains capable of launching attacks. Al Shabaab propagandists have stressed that the territorial changes do not affect their ability to launch effective guerilla-style attacks, either in Kenya or in Somalia, such as the recent hotel attack conducted in Mogadishu.
The Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta is calling for the Muslim community to help stop radicalization. The government also instructed parents to tell authorities if their child goes missing to prevent them from making it to al Shabaab jihadi training camps. This is an effort to stop Kenyan citizens from joining and aiding al Shabaab.