Fighters from the Somali Islamist Shebab group attacked a U.S.-Kenyan military base in Lamu, southeast Kenya, near the Somalia border at dawn on Sunday, killing three Americans.
« During an attack by the shebab, an Al Qaeda affiliated group in East Africa, earlier today, an American military man and two defense ministry contractors were killed » on the basis of Manda Bay, the American Command for Africa (Africom) announced in a statement.
Africom told AFP that the three dead were of American nationality. Two other Pentagon employees were injured. In a stable state, they are being evacuated.
« After a first foray into the perimeter (from the base, editor’s note), the Kenyan army and Africom forces have repelled the attack on the Shebab, » Africom said in a statement.
This operation, near the tourist island of Lamu, is the latest for the Shebab in Kenya since the country sent troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight this group affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
Kenyan army spokesman Colonel Paul Njuguna said there had been « an attempt at 5.30 am to overcome security on the Manda airfield. » “The attempt to (breach) has been successfully postponed. So far, the bodies of four terrorists have been found. The airstrip was not affected. «
According to an internal police report seen by the AFP, two Cessna planes, two American helicopters and « several American vehicles » were destroyed.
Local police chief Irungu Macharia said five people had been arrested near the camp and were being interrogated.
« Along with our African and international partners, we will chase those responsible for this attack and the shebab who seek to attack the Americans and harm American interests, » said Africom commander General Stephen Townsend.
For their part, the shebab claimed that 17 Americans and nine Kenyan soldiers had been killed. In a statement, the shebab wrote that they had « successfully attacked the highly fortified military base and taken control of part of the base ».
The shebab add that this action is part of its campaign « Al-Quds (Jerusalem) will never be Judaized » – first mentioned during an attack on the upscale hotel complex Dusit in Nairobi in January 2019, which left 21 dead.
In a second statement, the Islamist group said that the fighting had lasted ten hours and mocked « the failure of the United States to prevent an attack by a handful of determined Muslims. »
The Shebab carried out several large-scale attacks inside Kenya, claiming that it was retaliation for sending Kenyan soldiers to Somalia in 2011 to fight them, as well as targeting foreign interests.
Despite costly international efforts to defeat them, these Islamist rebels carried out one of the deadliest operations of the decade in Somalia on December 28, when 81 people were killed in a car bomb explosion in the capital Mogadishu.
The shebab attacks show their ability to inflict significant damage in the region, despite the loss of control of the main urban areas of Somalia.
Driven from Mogadishu in 2011, they lost most of their strongholds. But they still control large rural areas from where they organize guerrilla warfare and suicide bombings. It is estimated that there are currently between 5,000 and 9,000 combatants.
US military network
In a report released in November, a UN panel on Somalia highlighted the “unprecedented number” of homemade bombs and other attacks on the Kenya-Somalia border in June and July 2019.
At least three people were killed on Thursday when men suspected of being Shebab ambushed a bus traveling around the area.
According to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), the United States has 34 known military bases in Africa, from where they carry out “operations with drones” but also organize “training, military maneuvers” and “ humanitarian activities ”.
Present in Somalia, the United States has intensified its air strikes there since April 2017 after President Donald Trump’s extension of the powers given to the American army to launch anti-terrorist operations, by air or by land.
Last April, the US military command for the African continent announced that it had killed 800 people in 110 air strikes since April 2017 in this country in the Horn of Africa.