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Kenyan forces say 52 al Shabaab fighters killed in Somalia

NAIROBI: Kenyan troops killed 52 al Shabaab fighters in an attack on the militants' camp in southern Somalia on Friday, a military spokesman said.

Colonel Joseph Owuoth, spokesman for Kenya Defence Forces, said the incident happened in Badhaadhe in Lower Juba.

Rifles, three improvised explosive devices and bomb making materials were recovered in the assault, he said.

"The intelligence led operation was executed after surveillance assets sighted al Shabaab terrorist concentration on the location. Ground troops supported by mortar and artillery fire were employed to neutralise the camp thereafter," the statement said.

"Following the operation, the initial assessment indicates that 52 terrorists were killed while others fled with injuries."

Al Shabaab, whose assessment of casualties often differs markedly from official versions, could be immediately reached for comment.

Kenya has thousands of its troops in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to help curb al Shabaab and improve security as part of a reconstruction drive after two decades of civil war that shattered the country.

Kenya initially sent troops into Somalia in 2011 after a series of attacks on Kenyan soil by the al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab.

The Islamist group has been fighting for years to impose its own harsh interpretation of Islam on Somalia.

It once controlled much of Somalia and wants to topple the Western-backed government in Mogadishu and drive out the peacekeeping force, which is also made up of soldiers from Djibouti, Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia and other African countries.

In January, al Shabaab said its fighters killed dozens of Kenyan troops when the group attacked a remote military base in Somalia, while Kenya's army said nine soldiers had died and 70 militants were killed.

In January 2016, al Shabaab said it had killed more than 100 Kenyan soldiers in El Adde, a camp near the border with Kenya.

The military did not give details of casualties in that attack, but Kenyan media reports suggested a toll of that magnitude.

(Reporting by Humphrey Malalo; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Elias Biryabarema and Alison Williams)