At least 10 Somalis, including five children, were killed in Kenyan airstrikes near the border of the two East African countries Sunday, according to media reports. The reported strikes came just weeks before U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit the region.
Residents in the Gedo region of southern Somalia told the Somali news site Sahmis Online that the airstrikes killed five children on their way to a religious school.
Neither Kenyan nor Somali officials have confirmed the strikes. However, one Gedo resident, Idris Nur, told the Somali news agency Horseed Media that the warplanes “pounded the whole area indiscriminately and never bothered about the innocent people.” Dozens more people were injured during the operation, according to reports.
Kenyan military forces have previously conducted operations in neighboring Somalia while targeting members of the extremist group al-Shabab, which claimed responsibility for one high-profile attack on a university in eastern Kenya in April and another on the luxury Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in 2013. Kenya also has contributed troops to a joint African Union force dedicated to fighting al-Shabab in the region. The reported airstrikes Sunday came several days after the militant group said it was behind an attack that killed 14 quarry workers in northern Kenya, near the Somali border.
Al-Shabab also claimed responsibility for an attack at two hotels in the Somali capital of Mogadishu Friday that resulted in the deaths of six civilians, according to Reuters.
Obama is scheduled to visit Kenya, his father’s home country, for a series of meetings this month, putting more pressure on the nation’s government to contain the attacks by al-Shabab.