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US military accuses KDF of hiding during Al-Shabaab raid at Manda Airfield

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online

NAIROBI, Kenya - Kenya Defense Forces [KDF] troops hid in the grass during Al-Shabaab raid at Manda Airfield early this month, a report by New York Times has claimed, adding that "there was a possibility of an inside job".

While the report is not formal, it could tragically affect the mutual relationship between KDF and its American counterparts based in Kenya.

The earthshaking report was based on correspondences between the New York Times and senior US military officials, some who were eyewitness, the Times said.

It was the first successful attack on the American base in Africa. It left two contractors and a US Marine dead, AFRICOM said.

KDF allegedly hides in the grass

While American troops remained marooned in tents, their KDF counterparts hid in grass perhaps to escape from the onslaught, NYT added.

“Many KDF troops assigned to defend the base, hid in the grass while other American troops and support were corralled into tents, with little protection, to wait out the battle,” it claimed.

The Al-Shabaab militants ran over the Airfield early morning, meeting minimal resistance because many soldiers were holed up at Camp Simba, a mile away.

Before storming the base, the militants disrupted power connectivity within the Airfield and its vicinity, killing a resident in process, locals said.

Possibility of an inside job

And the NYT report also claims the Americans are investigating the possibility of an inside job, something that could further put Americans at loggerheads with KDF.

Investigators, the report added, were keenly scrutinizing and grilling Kenyan staff working within the base which plays home to American Marines.

It said: "Investigators are looking at the possibility the attackers had help from Kenyan staff on the base."

KDF's performance during the six hours battle with the Somalia-based militants "frustrated American officials" according to the report.

What KDF had said

Worthy to note, KDF announced they had captured six al Shabaab members, 'but they all turned out to be bystanders and were released'.

Also, the Kenyan military said six Al-Shabaab militants were killed in the process, adding that "it was an attempted raid at the base".

On the morning of the attack, the paper says, contractor pilots Dustin Harrison, 47, and Bruce Triplett, 64, were taxiing their Beechcraft King Air 350 on Manda Bay’s tarmac before they were killed.

Initially, the two had reported seeing "animals" crawling within the base, little did they know that they were actually Al-Shabaab militants.

Kenya denies casualties

A statement by KDF assured Kenyans that everything was okay, announcing that the base had been put under their control.

Interior Minister Dr. Fred Matiang'i also dismissed reports that a Kenyan had died during the lethal attack, which left several aircraft dismembered.

But investigations by a local daily established that one Kenyan civilian was killed by the attackers at his farm near the base.

Al-Shabaab claimed that "we killed 17 US Marine and 9 KDF troops. We shall continue attacking to push them away from Muslim land."

KDF dismisses New York Times report

Col. Paul Njuguna, the KDF spokesman, on Wednesday dismissed the reports by NYT on alleged inefficiency, terming them inconclusive.

According to the military spokesperson, “The article itself has said investigations are ongoing. No finding has been shared."

He added, “We have people on the ground, this is a meticulous exercise. It leaves nothing to chance. If the report comes out, we will be able to speak to it. This report [article] is premature.”

The KDF boss insisted that the military troops from Kenya responded swiftly, helping their American counterparts by averting massive losses

The US deploys more troops

Americans deployed East Africa Response Forces [EARF] to the scene who helped to secure the Airfield. Normalcy was restored.

Gen Stephen Townsend, the AFRICOM commander, also revealed that top military officers had been deployed to investigate the incident.

"I want ground truth to assess the situation and hear from the troops to ensure they have what they need to accomplish their mission," he said.

Manda Airfield was officially made an American base in 2019 and plays host to close to 100 US Marines who work with KDF to counter-terrorism.