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Situation at Manda Airfield is "fluid", US blames Al-Shabab for exaggeration

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online

LAMU, Kenya - Sunday's attack at Manda Bay airfield in Kenya's Lamu county was grossly exaggerated, the US has said, adding that "Al-Shabaab resorted to lies and coercion".

An unknown number of Al-Shabaab insurgents stormed the base early morning on Sunday, causing massive destruction at Camp Simba, Kenya confirmed.

Situated in Lamu County near Kenya-Somalia border, Camp Simba hosts elite US Marine corps and sections of Kenya Defense Forces (KDF).

The militants, witnesses affirmed, destroyed power connectivity within the vicinity of the base, causing an outage that lasted for several hours.

Al-Shabaab lies and propaganda

But in a statement, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) accused Al-Shabaab of "exaggerating" security situation on the ground.

“Al-Shabaab resorts to lies, coercion, and the exertion of force to bolster their reputation to create false headlines,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, U.S. Africa Command director of operations.

He added: “It is important to counter al-Shabaab where they stand to prevent the spread of this cancer.”

The US military said the situation at Manda Island in the coastal strip of Kenya remains "fluid" but the KDF and US Marine are combing the area.

Mogadishu car bomb attack

Noting havoc caused by the militants, the US said, "This is the same terror group that took more than 80 innocent lives in Mogadishu last week."

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility in the Mogadishu attack last Saturday, which also left hundreds injured. It apologized to civilians.

The attack, Al-Shabaab added, targeted a Turkish convoy near Afgoye junction. Two Turkish nationals working as engineers died.

Gen Gayler said Al-Shabaab “ is an al-Qaeda affiliate seeking to establish a self-governed Islamic territory in East Africa."

Kenya has remained a strategic partner for the US in East Africa both politically and economically. US military trains in Kenya.

Attackers repulsed by KDF

Sunday's attempted raid on the base could force the US to drop intentions to withdrawal close to 7,000 troops under AFRICOM based on the continent.

Col Paul Njuguna, the KDF spokesman said the militants were "repulsed" by some forces, adding that that four were killed during gunfire exchange.

Also, the KDF team arrested five militants who could now aid in the collection of intelligence in regard to the group's growing influence at the coastal strip.

Worryingly, this was the second attack within Lamu in a span of 48 hours. On Thursday, the militants killed three passengers aboard the Lamu-bound bus.

US equipment destroyed by militants

During the attack, the US said, the military suffered several damages on infrastructure and equipment at Camp Simba.

However, the US military could not comprehensively itemize some of the losses suffered but promised to avail of the information.

"Initial reports reflect damage to infrastructure and equipment. Accountability of personnel assessment is underway," read the statement.

Manda Bay is an area where U.S. forces provide training and counter-terrorism support to East African partners, the statement added.

Al-Shabaab terms the attack "daring"

Although both the US and Kenya did not mention any casualty on their side, Al-Shabaab militants termed the attack "successful"

The Somalia-based militants also termed the raid as "daring", likening it to a similar attack last year at the popular Dusit D2 Hotel in Nairobi.

"Fighters covertly entered the enemy lines, successfully stormed the heavily fortified military base and have now effectively taken control, inflicting casualties on both American and Kenyan troops," read the statement.

Security beefed up in Nairobi

An Al-Shabaab spokesman told Al-Jazeera TV that the raid "had nothing to do with the US and Iran conflict" that led to the death of Qassem Soleimani.

Iran has since promised "crushing revenge" against Washington following the death. Soleimani's body has since been airlifted to Tehran from Iraq.

On Saturday, Kenya had beefed up security at the US embassy and related buildings within the capital Nairobi as a precautionary measure.

Residents of Lamu had also hinted to security forces that Al-Shabaab military injured on Thursday by KDF were seeking medication within some villages.


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