Shabaab displays bodies of Kenyan soldiers near Kismayo
Last night, heavy fighting was reported near the town of Miido outside the Shabaab-held city of Kismayo in southern Somalia. Both Shabaab and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) claimed victory after the clash. AMISOM said it has taken control of the town, while Shabaab claimed it chased Kenyan troops back to Afmadow.
One thing seems clear: during the fighting, Shabaab captured several Kenyan soldiers (it isn't yet known if they were captured alive, or if their bodies were taken after they were killed during the fighting). Major Emmanuel Chirchir, the spokesman for the Kenyan Defense Force, confirmed on Twitter that "5 KDF personnel are missing in action after the incident" while "3 KDF soldiers sustained injuries and have been flown to Dobley for medical [attention]."
Shabaab upped the ante and posted photos on its Twitter account, HSM Press Office, of what it claims are dead Kenyan soldiers. Four soldiers are seen in one of the pictures; two appear to have Kenyan identification cards. Shabaab taunted the Kenyans with statements such as: "He wanted to come to #Kismayo. His wish has been fulfilled," and "And after all that, #KDFCorpses are now left for the dogs to devour. Welcome to #Kismayo fellas."
One photograph shows a soldier, shirtless, being dragged through the streets. HSM Press Office even referred to the infamous Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, when the bodies of US soldiers were mutilated and dragged through the streets of the Somali capital.
"Just like all invaders before them, #Kenyan soldiers were mercilessly dragged in the streets of Kismayo by an angry mob," the HSM Press Office said.
AMISOM had previously claimed that it would seize control of Kismayo by the end of August, but is now behind schedule. It is unclear if Shabaab will fight to hold Kismayo, which is ultimately an impossible task, or is just bloodying the noses of the AMISOM and African Union forces before melting away and staging harassment attacks as it has done in Mogadishu, Baidoa, and a host of other cities and towns, most recently in Marka.
Shabaab seems to be following the advice of Omar Hammami, the American commander who is known as Abu Mansour al Amriki. In his autobiography, Hammami suggested that it was foolish for Shabaab to waste its fighters and resources by fighting conventional battles to hold territory in the face of superior military enemies, as Shabaab's predecessor, the Islamic Courts Union, had done from the end of 2006 through the Ethiopian invasion of 2007. Hammami recommended instead that when it was clear Shabaab's enemies were advancing in strength, the group should withdraw its forces and engage in a guerrilla war in urban settings.