A pre-dawn strike by Al-Shabaab militants has resulted in the unfortunate deaths of three American citizens in Kenya. In the attack, militant enemy forces breached a tactical operations base that hosts U.S. personnel. In the exchange at least four jihadists were also killed
The U.S. military confirmed that a deadly attack occurred on a shared military base in Kenya and that the attack was perpetrated by Somalia’s al Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab, which is a jihadist fundamentalist group, on Sunday 05 JAN 2020. The attack underscores the lethal threat that al-Shabaab still poses to the region, despite a significant uptick in American tactical presence in recent years, to include an increased frequency in American air strikes. In addition to the deaths of one U.S. service member and two U.S. military contractors in the attack, two U.S. military contractors were also wounded. The predawn strike occurred at the Manda Bay Airfield near Kenya’s border with Somalia on the Indian Ocean coast, and also resulted in the destruction of vehicles and infrastructure.
The mission of U.S. forces at the base is, among other things, to provide training and support to African military partners in the fight against terrorism and other regional threats.
The brazen attack marks al-Shabaab’s first assault against U.S. forces inside Kenya. The Kenyan tactical outpost is considered an important asset to U.S. military strategists, and is used by the USA’s Department of Defense as an important base in the continued fight against one of the region’s most deadly extremist organizations.
In addition to the unfortunate casualties that were reported involving the one U.S. service member and three civilian military contracting personnel, the U.S. military also confirmed that six civilian aircraft were damaged in the attack as well.
Video footage from the scene of the attack was released by al-Shabaab showing militants standing next to a visibly damaged, smoldering and inflamed aircraft. Al-Shabaab later claimed that they had destroyed seven planes and three military vehicles in the attack.
A statement was issued by the U.S. Africa Command advising that names of the U.S. service member and contractors killed in the attack would be withheld until their families had been properly notified. U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend issued a heartfelt statement expressing “As we honor their sacrifice, let’s also harden our resolve.” General Townsend further stated “We remain committed to preventing al-Shabaab from maintaining a safe haven to plan deadly attacks.”
President Donald Trump made dealing with threats from this region a major strategic priority of his administration soon after taking office. Not long after being sworn-in, President Trump authorized an escalation of offensive operations against al-Shabaab, leading to increased U.S. airstrikes in the region, as well as increased American troops presence.
According to a statement issued by Kenyan military officials, four of the al-Shabaab jihadists were confirmed dead in the attack on Manda Bay Airfield. Al-Shabaab later falsely claimed that 17 Americans and nine Kenyan soldiers were killed in the attack.
While U.S. forces and allied missions across the world have been on high alert in recent days in the wake of the killing of Iranian military commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, there has thus far been no evidence linking the al-Shabaab attack on U.S. forces in Kenya to that episode.
Al-Shabaab, which gained support in reaction to the 2006 invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia, has long targeted military and civilian infrastructure assets within the U.S.-backed, 21,000-strong African Union peacekeeping mission. Attacks by al-Shabaab dating back to 2011 resulted in Kenya initially sending forces to Somalia. These forces were eventually merged with the African Union force.
Al-Shabaab has been designated as a terror organization by the U.S. since 2008. U.S. air strikes have been deployed with greater frequency since the 2016 timeframe, as well as drone strikes and ground raids on the group’s main targets inside Somalia. An al-Shabaab assault in 2018 killed U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Alex Conrad. SSG Conrad was in the region on special assignment building a small base to project the Somali government authority into the countryside. He had been attached to the Green Berets for that mission up until the time of his unfortunate death.