US military kills Al-Shabaab commander responsible for Manda Bay raid
NAIROBI, Kenya - A senior commander with Al-Shabaab based in Somalia who is believed to have planned and executed the US Naval Base attack in Kenya has been killed, AFRICOM commander Gen Stephen Townsend said, although he did not reveal the name.
In what is considered the first deadly attack against Americans in Africa, the Manda Airfield attack which was carried simultaneously with Camp Simba raid, left three Americans dead, officials said.
Sophisticated military equipment among them six aircraft were also dismembered, in an attack Al-Shabaab termed as "a major success against our enemies".
The Jan. 5 attack also left five Al-Shabaab militants dead, even though Gen. Townsend had told the US Senate that "Al-Shabaab caught us unprepared but we shall investigate and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice".
And in a statement on Tuesday, the US general said Saturday's precision attack at Saakow town, 360 kilometers West of Mogadishu, left the mastermind of Manda Bay attack and his wife dead.
Victims identified as Al-Shabaab militants
The two terrorists, he said, were identified as " senior Al-Shabaab leader responsible for planning attacks" and the wife was "an active Al-Shabaab member" responsible for the facilitation of terror activities.
Manda Bay raid may have changed the US strategy in the war against Al-Shabaab, forcing it to improve surveillance across the borders.
Since the attack, he said: “U.S. Africa Command and our partners have pursued those responsible for the attack on U.S. and Kenyan forces at Manda Bay."
Mark Esper, the Defense Secretary, had insisted that "we shall pursue and bring to justice the perpetrators" when issuing a statement at Pentagon after the attack.
And Gen. Townsend said the airstrike was a mere demonstration of America's determination to pursue the entire team of terrorists behind the attack.
“This strike demonstrates that we will continue to relentlessly pursue those responsible for Manda Bay and those wishing to do harm to Americans and our African partners.”
Sakow town is found in Middle Juba, a region which harbors Al-Shabaab militants, and it's often used for recruitment and training, AFRICOM said.
AFRICOM's measures after Manda Airfield attack
The command deployed elite East Africa Response Force [EARF] immediately after the attack, to reinforce the troops already on the ground, Townsend said.
Also, he added, the command "increased" its force protection postures and harden its operating location, including Manda Bay, while simultaneously "pursuing the attackers" and their network.
Besides playing home to US Marine Corps, Manda Airfield also hosts Kenya Defense Forces [KDF], who take joint training with your US military.
There were claims that KDF "hid in the grass" during the attack, although Kenya's Department of Defense dismissed that reports as "inaccurate and untrue" in a statement sent to the newsroom.
While acknowledging Al-Shabaab's threat, Gen Townsend said: “Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, is an evil and remorseless enemy of peace, stability, and freedom in East Africa."
He added: "It threatens the very way of life of people there, as well as Americans and U.S. interest in the region and abroad."
Reports by the UN indicates that the group has killed over 4,000 civilians in the last decade, with a huge chunk being Muslims from Somalia.
SNA gains in Al-Shabaab strongholds
Although the militants can still execute deadly attacks, it has been substantially degraded by Somali National [Army SNA] and allied forces, AFRICOM said.
Some of the huge strides have been recorded in central and southern Somalia, where the militants have taken control for years now.
The U.S. trained Danab forces, along with combined counterterrorism efforts, continue to support observed momentum and promote greater opportunity, AFRICOM added.
“U.S. Africa Command will continue to support our African and European partners in the fight against al-Shabaab,” said Townsend.
“It is important to impact their ability to threaten peace and security in East Africa and prevent their threats against the U.S. from being a reality.”
The airstrike at Saakow was the 15th since the beginning of 2020, the highest ever within the same period in past encounters, reports indicate.
Last year, the US Africa Command conducted 63 record airstrikes in Somalia, the highest ever in the history of the war-torn nation.