A woman walks by a Kenya Defence Force (KDF) soldier on the outer perimeter area of the Kismayu airport controlled by the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)
A woman walking by a Kenya Defence Force soldier on the outer perimeter area of the Kismayu airport, controlled by the African Mission in Somalia, on 11 November 2013 Reuters/Siegfried Modola

The United States has agreed to sell 14 aircraft to the Kenyan military for around $418m (£335m) to be used in the fight against the Islamist militants al-Shabab, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said on Monday (23 January 2017).

The al-Shabab terror group is based in Somalia, but has in recent years has carried out some of its bloodiest attacks on Kenyan soil in retaliation for Kenya's participation in counter-terror operations in Somalia as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

The US government approved the deal to sell "Air Tractor aircraft with weapons, and related support" to support the Kenyan army's ongoing efforts to counter al-Shabaab on 19 January.

"This proposed sale contributes to the foreign policy and national security of the US by improving the security of a strong regional partner who is a regional security leader undertaking critical operations against al-Shabaab and troop contributor to the AMISOM," the State Department said in a statement.

The platform maximises the Kenyan Defense Force's air action "because it is a short-field aircraft capable of using precision munitions and cost effective logistics and maintenance".

The possible sale includes 12 Air Tractor AT- 802L and two AT-504 trainer aircraft, weapons package, technical support and programme management. The new aircraft would be "pre-positioned much closer to the conflict area".

Instability in Somalia, compounded by consequences of recurring natural hazards, has internally displaced 1.1 million people, and more than 900,000 Somalis have found refuge in neighbouring countries – half of whom reside in Kenya.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta vowed to take harsh measures against the Islamic militants, including the closure of the Dadaab refugee camp, which is militarily populated by Somalis, and an uptick in surveillance of Somali communities in Nairobi.