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Al-Shabaab suffers losses in battle with Kenyan forces

By East Africa Correspondent , Garowe Online

NAIROBI, Kenya - A contingent of Kenya Defense Forces [KDF] on Monday killed at least five Al-Shabaab militants in the volatile county of Mandera, reports indicate, in a deadly clash that comes months after the group reduced attacks on Kenyan soil, perhaps due to the raging Coronavirus pandemic across the globe.

Sources privy to the incident said the Al-Shabaab militants, who have been crossing over from Somalia, ambushed a KDF convoy in the county, leading to a fierce gunfight. Eyewitnesses said the fight lasted for a couple of hours before the militants were subdued by heavily equipped KDF soldiers.

Five militants were killed on the spot while dozens of others managed to sneak to neighboring Somalia and the team is currently pursuing them, sources added. The ambush according to sources, took place at Lafey, Mandera County near the Kenya-Somalia border.

While security bosses have dodged questions regarding the incident, reliable reports say one KDF soldier was killed and two others left injured as they attempted to contain the militants. The injured soldiers are said to have been airlifted to Nairobi for specialized treatment.

The terrorists, reports indicate, ambushed KDF officers along Alungu-Elwak Road on morning hours using grenades and guns. According to the sources, the Kenyan troops were heading to an airstrip when the militants laid an ambush, prompting gunfire.

Reports indicate that the KDF team has extended crackdown in the region as they pursue the attackers. KDF has an army base in Mandera but it's yet to establish a barrack in the county despite the fact that Al-Shabaab militants have frequently attacked security forces and civilians.

The incident happened five days after two traders on a motorbike were attacked by suspected Al-Shabaab militants along Fino-sheikh Barrow road, Lafey Sub County. The two survived the ambush according to police reports that were sent to newsrooms after the raid.

Last week, reports emerged that the US Africa Command has sought permission from the Department of Defense for airstrikes in northeastern Kenya, which has been struggling with security issues. Once approved, the US military, which is actively involved in the fight against Al-Shabaab in Somalia, will for the first time launch airstrikes in Kenya particularly at NFD and Lamu.

Early this year, the militants sneaked from Somalia and raided a US Naval Base in Lamu, killing three Americans. The KDF team besides also engaging the militants deep into Somalia has increased surveillance along the border, with the recent launching of Modika Barracks in Garissa acting as an added advantage.

The KDF team is set to withdraw formally from Somalia in 2021 upon full implementation of the Somali Transition Plan. There are close to 3,500 KDF soldiers in Somalia mainly manning Sectors II and VI of AMISOM jurisdictions in Jubaland state within Somalia.

Al-Shabaab militants have been raiding northeastern Kenya for several years now but the KDF team and other security forces have managed to minimize the attacks. A report seen by the media indicated that the team has managed to degrade the militants, especially along the porous border.

The group has been fighting to topple the fragile UN-backed Somalia government since 2006. In recent weeks, they have suffered massive losses within Somalia and in Kenya, following the death of hundreds of them from ground combats and airstrikes coordinated by allied forces in the war-torn nation.