Shabaab fighter waving the jihadist group’s flag inside the base
In photos released yesterday, Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, detailed last week’s deadly assault on a Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) base in southern Somalia near the Kenyan border. The raid came just over one year after another assault on a KDF base in El Adde, which killed more than 100 Kenyan soldiers.
In last week’s assault, Shabaab said its “Saleh al Nabhan Battalion” launched a coordinated, large-scale attack on the base. The attack began with two simultaneous suicide bombings, followed by an assault team breaching the perimeter of the base. According to Shabaab, “more than 67 KDF troops were killed.” However, in the photos only around 50 bodies are shown. The jihadist group was able to capture the base and took vehicles and supplies before withdrawing.
A KDF spokesman denied Shabaab’s version of the events in a comment to Al Jazeera. “Shabaab is known for propaganda, whatever they are saying about the attack is incorrect, including the number,” he told the news agency. Speaking to The Guardian, another spokesman completely denied the attack compromised the base. “[Kenyan] soldiers repulsed the terrorists, killing scores,” the spokesman said. KDF officials also initially downplayed last year’s attack in El Adde.
At first, the KDF downplayed the size of the attack before being forced to admit casualties. The initial estimate was around 60 KDF killed, however, as investigators and other personnel combed the base after Shabaab fled, the number quickly rose. It is now believed that around 100, if not more, KDF soldiers were killed in that raid.
The “Saleh al Nabhan Battalion” is named after the senior Al Qaeda East Africa operative of the same name. Al Nabhan was wanted by the FBI for his involvement in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania before being killed by US forces in Somalia in 2009. The Kenyan jihadist was also wanted for his involvement in a 2002 strike on an Israeli hotel and an airliner in Mombasa. This was the same battalion that carried out the El Adde attack.
Shabaab continues to be a constant threat to African Union, Somali, and other forces inside Somalia. It has also continuously targeted African Union troops in southern Somalia and has taken back some territory in the process. The jihadist group has also been able to mount attacks in the central part of Somalia and into neighboring Kenya, as well.
Some of the photos released from the Kulbiyow KDF base: