MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Kenya’s army killed five suspected members of Somalia’s al Shabaab militant group on Wednesday and one soldier died during fighting on the north Kenyan coast, the military said.
The militants attacked a truck in Lamu County carrying soldiers who were going to join the Kenyan contingent of an African peacekeeping force in Somalia, said David Obonyo, the Kenya Defense Force spokesman.
“The soldiers were heading to their operation base in Ras Kiamboni from Lamu, near our border with Somalia, when the attackers emerged from Boni forest and started firing at them,” Obonyo said, adding one soldier and five militants were killed.
Al Shabaab, which has lost territory inside Somalia because of an offensive last year by the African Union troops and Somali soldiers, said it attacked a Kenyan convoy in the Lamu area.
The group’s spokesman for military operations, Abdiasis Abu Musab, told Reuters in Somalia that its fighters killed “several KDF soldiers” and destroyed three trucks, as well as a tank on one of them. He did not mention if any militants were killed.
Officials and Al Shabaab often offer differing accounts of attacks and death tolls.
The group has staged a series of attacks inside Kenya, usually targeting civilians. The rebels have promised more.
Gunmen killed about 100 people in attacks in Lamu County in June and July. Al Qaeda-aligned al Shabaab has said that and other attacks was to drive Kenyan forces out of Somalia.
The group was also behind the assault on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall in 2013, in which 67 people were killed.
Wednesday’s assault was similar to an incident last June in which two soldiers were killed when a truck their truck ferrying food to colleagues in Somalia was attacked after it stalled.
Security has been stepped up in Lamu County and the once popular tourist destination of Lamu port. Local businesses say a dusk to dawn curfew has further hurt their struggling trade.
Additional reporting by Humphrey Malalo in Nairobi and Feisal Omar in Mogadishu; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Ralph Boulton