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Kenya Says It Killed al Shabaab's Intelligence Chief

Kenyan troops say they killed al Shabaab's deputy commander and head of intelligence Mohamed Karatey during a graduation ceremony for insurgent fighters on February 8.
Photo by Noor Khamis/Reuters

Kenyan troops have reportedly delivered a major blow to the leadership of Somali militant group al Shabaab, with the military announcing today that its forces took out the commander of the an elite intelligence unit within the insurgency.

Kenyan troops, working under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), say they killed al Shabaab's deputy commander and head of intelligence Mohamed Karatey. The mission took place during a graduation ceremony for insurgent fighters on February 8, the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) said in a statement on Thursday.

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"It is believed Karatey played a major role in the recent attack on KDF troops in El Adde by the deployment of his suicide bombers," KDF said in a statement, referring to a January attack carried out by al Shabaab at an African Union base in the remote Somali town of El Adde. Al Shabaab claimed that it killed more than 100 Kenyan soldiers in that attack and took others hostage during dawn raid on the army camp, which lies near the Kenyan border.

There have been reports of wounded soldiers returning to Kenya. Al Shabaab has inflated casualty figures in the past, while other official estimates often play them down.

"His killing now adds to that of the killing of Abdi Dek, the operation commander of the Abu Zubeyr Brigade that carried out the attack in El Adde," the statement said.

The statement gave no further details on the killing of Karatey but said the Kenyan military had also killed 42 al Shabaab recruits and 10 other mid-level  commanders during the raid. The unit that Karatey headed — known as Amniyat — is allegedly made up of spies, suicide bombers, and explosives experts.

Related: Kenya Destroys Suspected al Shabaab Camps As Group Argues About the Islamic State

Al Shabaab has links to al Qaeda and seek to overthrow Somalia's weak Western-backed government and drive out the African Union soldiers supporting them. The group has been present in Somalia since 2006, but over the last several year the AU mission has succeeded in pushing the militants out of several coastal strongholds and loosening their grip on the capital Mogadishu.

Al Shabaab fighters have been increasingly active in Kenya, waging brutal and deadly attacks on malls, buses, and colleges over the past several years that have sparked growing counter-terrorism efforts from the national government. In Somalia, the militants have waged several assaults so far this year. Al Shabaab gunmen attacked a beach earlier this year, killing more than a dozen people, and in February a suicide bomber linked to the group detonated a bomb on a plane leaving Mogadishu's international airport. The plane was able to safely land with minor damage to the fuselage, but the bomber was sucked out of the plane through the whole created by the explosion.

Related: Somali Militant Group al Shabaab Uses Donald Trump in Video to Recruit New US Followers