NAIROBI (Reuters) - Militants from Somalia-based al Shabaab attacked a village in northeast Kenya but were beaten back by security forces, the Interior Ministry said on Friday.
It said the militants entered the village of Yumbis, 70 km (45 miles) north of the town of Garissa, late on Thursday.
“Security forces swiftly mobilized and engaged the militants in a gunbattle. No casualties were reported,” a ministry statement said.
Al Shabaab, which has carried out frequent attacks in Kenya in recent years to try to force Nairobi to pull its troops out of Somalia, attacked a university in the same area last month and killed 148 people.
A police source in the area who did not wish to be named said the militants roamed Yumbis for an hour in two trucks bearing Kenyan registration plates. They hoisted their black flag on a mosque where they held prayers, before heading towards the nearby village of Damajale.
A combined force of police and the army drove them off, the source said.
Al Shabaab said on Friday its fighters were still in the village and had repulsed Kenyan security personnel.
“We fully control Yumbis village. Kenyan forces tried to attack the village but we drove them back,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, told Reuters.
A senior government official reiterated that al Shabaab fighters had left the village.
“We have dispatched a team of security officers on the ground tracking down the attackers ... The area is calm and peaceful “ a senior Garrissa county government official, who did not wish to be named, told Reuters by phone.
Attacks by the militants have hit Kenya’s tourism industry, a top foreign exchange earner, as worried tourists cancel bookings.
Al Shabaab, which has links to al Qaeda, has frequently carried out attacks in Somalia and neighboring countries as it seeks to impose its strict interpretation of Islamic law and overthrow the Somali government, which is backed by Western donors and African peacekeepers.
The group, which once controlled Mogadishu and large swathes of territory in other regions, was driven out of the capital in 2011 and has been losing ground since then. But it has continued to launch attacks, including several across the border in Kenya.
Reporting by Duncan Miriri and Humphrey Malalo in Nairobi, Joseph Akwiri in Mombasa and Feisal Omar in Mogadishu; Editing by George Obulutsa and Janet Lawrence