US honours soldier killed in Kenya, vows to crush Al-Shabaab in Somalia

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online

WASHINGTON, USA - Pentagon has honored American one soldier killed during Al-Shabaab raid in Kenya, adding that "perpetrators shall be brought to justice".

Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday also mourned two other American contractors who died on Sunday during the daring attack.

He said, "I'd like to begin by offering my deepest condolences to the families of the three Americans who lost their lives on Sunday in Manda Bay, Kenya."

Henry Mayfield Jr, 23, died after a fierce gunfight between US Marine and Al-Shabaab militants at Camp Simba, AFRICOM said.

The attack was the first to be waged American forces on Kenyan soil, three months after the militants attempted to break into the Ballidogle army base, which is also manned by the US in Somalia.

Soldier hailed for selflessness

Department of Defense said the youthful soldier from Chicago was in Kenya "to protect interests of our country and improve stability in the region alongside our partners".

Two other soldiers from the US army were critically injured during the Manda Bay attack. They have been airlifted abroad for advanced treatment, US said.

But the Defense Secretary has vowed to ensure the Al-Shabaab militants who raided the camp are all brought to book in honor of the fallen soldier.

"We honor him and assure you that the perpetrators of this attack will be brought to justice," said Esper, without giving many details.

Junior's last words to his mother

Carmoneta Mayfield, the soldier's mother, had told local media in Chicago that she had a candid phone call with his hours to his demise.

The emotional Carmoneta said, “We discussed him not having to go to Somalia and he told me everything was good and safe at his base."

"He told me everything would be okay. Those were his last words to me," added the tearful mother.

The United States has roughly 200 uniformed staff in Kenya and an additional 100 non-uniformed staff mainly placed in strategic regions, AP reported.

More troops deployed to Kenya

Already, through the US Africa Command, Washington has deployed more elite soldiers to Camp Simba, AFRICOM confirmed.

The East Africa Response Force (EARF) is a combat-ready force that is deployed for emergencies such as the Sunday's terror attack.

“The EARF provides a critical combat-ready, rapid deployment force,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, director of operations, AFRICOM.

“The EARF’s ability to respond to events spanning a vast area of responsibility provides a proven and invaluable on-call reinforcement capability in times of need.”

Al-Shabaab is a terrorist group that has repeatedly communicated an intent to attack U.S. interests, AFRICOM said, linking it to deadly Mogadishu attack on December 28th.

Gayler said: “Al-Shabaab resorts to lies, coercion, and the exertion of force to bolster their reputation to create false headlines."

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility

Al-Shabaab, through a statement, termed the attack "daring and successful" adding that the US and KDF suffered casualties.

Without giving tangible proof, Al-Shabaab claimed that at least 17 US Marine and 9 KDF troops died during the raid.

Also, six aircraft were destroyed along with several military vehicles used by Kenya and the US, AFRICOM said in a statement.

Five terrorists were killed on the spot and sophisticated equipment was confiscated among them 4 RPG launchers, KDF said.

KDF backlash on casualties

While Kenya disputes any casualties, reports have emerged that a civilian was killed by Al-Shabaab. He was identified as Mwalimu Chengo.

His brother, Josphat Ponda told the Nation that Chengo was working as a casual laborer at a farm in Hindi.

“He has been working there as a shamba boy for quite some time. We spoke to his friend who saw the attackers who were in military uniform and he explained how he was shot,” said Ponda.

The reports corroborated US Senator Jim Risch, the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, who condoled with both Kenya and American families affected.

“I am saddened to learn that American and Kenyan lives were lost during a heinous terrorist attack on a Kenya-US operating base early this morning,” he tweeted.

Both KDF and interior minister Dr. Fred Matiang'i insisted that no Kenyan died during the daring attack that shocked the country.