KDF soldiers kill 12 Al-Shabaab militants months after Manda Airfield raid
NAIROBI, Kenya - Special Forces from KDF on Friday reigned over another set of Al-Shabaab militants, authorities said, months after the unprecedented raid at the US Naval Base in Lamu.
The Jan. 5 attack exposed Kenya's preparedness in tackling the Al-Qaida linked group. The Manda Airfield attack had caught both KDF and US Marine Corps unaware, leaving three Americans dead.
And in one of the major operations since the attack at the Naval Base, the KDF team retaliated by unleashing to the militants in one of their major hideouts at Korisa Kotile camp, not far from Camp Simba.
The camp is located at Nginda, an area between Korisa and Bargoni within the dense Boni Forest, in Lamu County. The camp has been used for recruitment training of the Somalia-based militants, officials said.
Thursday's raid was a culmination of a three-year-long battle against the militants in the forest. Bordering Somalia, Boni Forest has played host to the militants, who take advantage of its a strategic location.
In 2018, the KDF team was deployed to the forest's vicinity, an operation dubbed "Linda Boni" which has seen persistent aerial and ground surveillance to flush out the militants.
Among those killed on Thursday was a notorious local commander from the Coast region who had been providing intelligence and logistical support to terrorists hiding in the forest, reports the Nation.
Multiple sources hinted that one suspect was captured alive with an AK 47 rifle and magazines. He's currently held at a KDF base for interrogations over the militants' activities, authorities said.
The KDF soldiers found weapons including three AK 47 rifles, seven magazines, more than 1,000 bullets, pouches, and a water carrier, reports indicate.
Last week, a similar operation was carried out in the neighboring Garissa at Ijara constituency, leading to the death of six militants and capturing one of them, in another great success against them, officials said.
The two raids are some of the greatest achievements against the militants in ground operations in as many years. Garissa, Lamu, Wajir, and Mandera have borne brunt of the Al-Shabaab menace in recent months
But the Lamu operation is a big blow to the extremist group as militants holed up in the forest may starve due to lack of food supplies and ammunition, officials said. The camp was the group's only remaining one in Kenya, which is used to coordinate their activities.
Coast Regional Commissioner John Elungata said, “There has been a continuous operation by the KDF. This is commendable. We shall continue to trace and bring them to justice."
Intense operations have been waged ever since the Manda Airfield attack, with both Kenya and the US troops tracking the masterminds to their doorsteps and subsequently, unleashing on them.
Last month, the US Africa Command announced the death of Bashir Qorgab, one of Al-Shabaab's top commander, who was linked to the Manda Airfield raid. He was killed in Saakow town, Middle Juba.
KDF's retaliation could also give Kenyans much-needed confidence, due to reports that "they hid in the grass" during Al-Shabaab raid at Manda Bay. But despite the sensational allegations by the New York Times, KDF dismissed the reports as "unfounded propaganda".
Gen. Stephen Townsend, the AFRICOM commander, recently termed Al-Shabaab as "a threat to stability in East Africa", telling the House Armed Forces Committee that "this informs our frequent raids against them".
By Tuesday this week, the US launched 31st airstrike against the militants in Somalia, during the quest to liberate strategic Janaale town in Lower Shebelle, officials said. It's the highest number of airstrikes within a similar period in the past.
Kenya has, on the other hand, shifted focus to trade of contraband goods within the porous Kenya-Somalia border, a move which is aimed at starving the militants financially, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced recently.