On Sunday morning, Al-Shabab extremists attacked a military base in Kenya, used by US and Kenyan forces.
According to US Africa Command, which is responsible for military relations with African nations, one US military service member and two US Department of Defense contractors were killed, while two other Department of Defense members were wounded in the attack on the Manda Bay Airfield in Lamu County.
While there were no Kenyan casualties in the attack, according to Kenya’s military spokesperson, Colonel Paul Njuguna, five of the attackers had been taken down.
General Stephen Townsend, commander of US Africa Command, said in a statement, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of our teammates who lost their lives today.
“As we honor their sacrifice, let’s also harden our resolve. Alongside our African and international partners, we will pursue those responsible for this attack and al-Shabab, who seeks to harm Americans and US interests.”
According to Lamu county commissioner Irungu Macharia, five individuals thought to have been involved in the attack had been arrested and were being interrogated.
Africa Command reported the attack to have consisted of “indirect and small arms fire”. While the attackers initially managed to breach the perimeter, US and Kenyan forces managed to repel them. However, Africa command confirmed that six contractor aircraft vehicles had been damaged “to some degree” in the attack.
Al-Shabab claimed that it had killed nine Kenyan soldiers and inflicted 17 US casualties, as well as destroyed seven aircraft and three military vehicles. Africa Command quickly dismissed the claims as exaggerated.
The Manda Bay Airfield
According to Africa Command, the Manda Bay Airfield is used by US forces for training, to respond to crises and to protect “US interests in this strategically important area”.
“The work that our US forces are doing in East Africa bolsters partnerships, counters malign influence, and maintains critical pressure on terrorist networks,” said General Townsend, who went on to add that the work done at the base contributes to counterterrorism and maritime surveillance.
Al-Shabab’s presence in East Africa
Al-Shabab has been carrying out frequent bomb and gun attacks in Kenya. In return, the country has sent thousands of its troops to Somalia to fight the group. Al-Shabab’s attacks have been focused on civilian targets, such as schools, malls and busses. This marks the group’s first known attack on US forces in Kenya.
The attack also comes just over a week after al-Shabab detonated a car bomb in Mogadishu, Somalia, killing at least 81 people. In response to the Mogadishu attack, the US military launched airstrikes against al-Shabab militants.