REPORTING FROM NAIROBI, KENYA -- Five Somalis fleeing famine were killed and dozens more injured when Kenyan forces bombed a displaced persons camp in the southern Somalia town of Jilib, the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders said Monday.
The Kenyan military initially said 10 fighters from the Somali rebel group Al Shabab were killed in Sunday's raid and denied that its aircraft had directly attacked the camp. "It would be most unfortunate, but the information we have is that it's just Al Shabab propaganda," Kenyan Prime Minister Rail Odinga told a Nairobi news conference.
But Kenyan military spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir later was quoted by Reuters news service as saying the air strike hit an Al Shabab vehicle that carried an anti-aircraft gun and ammunition. The vehicle caught fire, was driven into the camp and then exploded, he said.
The bombing brought criticism to a military operation that was launched more than two weeks ago in part to combat a series of kidnappings in Kenya that authorities there blamed on the Al Qaeda-linked rebel group.
Doctors Without Borders said it was treating 45 people from a camp housing some 7,500 people. It has been providing emergency food rations and other humanitarian aid to the famine victims in Jilib, which is under Al Shabab control.
The dead were three children, a woman and a man, according to Doctors Without Borders.
The organization closed down operations in Jilib temporarily because of the bombardments. It urged all parties to the conflict to respect civilian lives.
An Al Shabab official condemned the raid and vowed revenge.
"Kenya has brutally massacred civilians already displaced by hardship. We will ensure that Kenya mourns more than we did," regional Al Shabab official Sheik Abukar Ali Ada told reporters, according to Agence France-Presse news service.
Odinga and his Somali counterpart, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, in turn said they would call on the International Criminal Court in the Hague to investigate Al Shabab militants for crimes against humanity. They met in Nairobi on Monday to discuss Kenya's military incursion.
Photo: Somalia's Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, left, and his Kenyan counterpart Raila Amollo Odinga exchange copies of a joint communique issued following their talks Monday in Kenya's capital, Nairobi. Credit: Thomas Mukoya / Reuters