Timely response reduced casualties in Al-Shabaab's raid at Manda Airfield in Kenya
NAIROBI, Kenya - Timely response neutralized Al-Shabaab onslaught at Camp Simba in Kenya, US military has said, adding that ", casualties would have been devastating".
Al-Shabaab militants raided the camp, which plays host to US Marine and KDF troops on Jan. 5, exposing security lapses in the fight against the militants.
It was the first attack that targeted a foreign military base in Kenya, which is a major ally of the US within the African continent, police said.
Spc. Henry J. Mayfield, Jr., and two U.S. contractors, Mr. Bruce Triplett and Mr. Dustin Harrison were killed during the Manda Airfield raid, AFRICOM said.
Casualties could have been more
In a statement on Thursday, AFRICOM said the loss of the three Americans and destruction of aircrafts "demonstrates the enemy achieved a degree of success in its attack".
The attackers accessed the heavily fortified base from Hindi township, disconnecting power within the region, police added.
But initial reports indicate a timely response which "reduced the number of casualties and eliminated the potential for further damage".
The US forces in Kenya are primarily responsible for training Kenyan forces, sharing intelligence, and personnel recovery, AFRICOM added.
There is fewer than 350 Department of Defense personnel in Kenya. Most of them are stationed at the coastal areas for effective Marine training.
Number of attackers unknown
After a heavy gunfight, through US Marines and KDF managed to kill five militants besides recovering several sophisticated weapons, KDF said.
While numbers are still being verified, it is estimated that several dozen al-Shabaab fighters were repelled, US military added.
Because of the size of the Kenyan base, clearance and security operations continued for several more hours to ensure the entire base was secure.
In a statement, Al-Shabaab said "AFRICOM thrives on propaganda. It's never ready to admit heavy casualties on their part."
The Somalia-based militants claimed that 17 US servicemen and 9 KDF troops were killed in the assault. No prove was given though.
Al-Shabaab menace in East Africa
For a decade now, the Al-Qaida associated group has caused havoc in East Africa, with the ultimate goal being ousting fragile Somalia government.
A report by the UN recently revealed that the group has managed to inflict over 4,000 deaths in the last decade, despite being substantially degraded.
“The attack at Manda Bay demonstrates that al-Shabaab remains a dangerous and capable enemy,” said U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, U.S. Africa Command commander.
He added that "it is important that we continue to pursue al-Shabaab and prevent their vision from becoming a reality.”
Last month, the insurgents waged a lethal attack in the suburbs of Mogadishu, killing over 90 people, police said.
Investigations still ongoing
Immediately after the attack, the Command deployed senior military officials to "inspect the site and assess any urgent actions required".
Simultaneously, AFRICOM said, the command launched a senior-leader-led Army 15-6 investigation. The team is looking into the facts and circumstances surrounding the attack.
The full findings of the investigation will be released following family and Department of Defense notification, AFRICOM added.
Increased force protection measures have been put into place and U.S. Africa Command will pursue the attackers until they are brought to justice, it said.
There were also claims that KDF troops "hid in the grass" during the attack according to the New York Times but the Command is yet to issue a statement.