One U.S. service member and two Defense Department contractors were killed during a raid by Shabaab on a Kenyan airfield earlier today, according to U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). In addition, two other “members” of the Defense Department were wounded. It is not clear how many casualties were suffered by Kenyan forces.
Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s East African branch, claimed that the U.S. suffered “more than 17 battle casualties” during its attack on the Manda Bay Airfield. But according to AFRICOM’s statement, that was an exaggeration.
“The attack on the compound today involved indirect and small arms fire,” AFRICOM says. “After an initial penetration of the perimeter, Kenya Defense Forces and U.S. Africa Command repelled the al-Shabaab attack.”
The U.S. military also says that “six contractor-operated civilian aircraft were damaged to some degree,” which is broadly consistent with Shabaab’s self-reporting from the site. The al-Qaeda arm claimed earlier in the day that seven aircraft were destroyed.
Manda Bay Airfield is used by the U.S. and its Kenyan allies for training and deploying forces to hotspots in the region.
AFRICOM and Shabaab also engaged in a battle of words throughout the day, with the U.S. military accusing the jihadists of exaggerating the efficacy of their operations. While that is true, Shabaab still managed to infiltrate the airfield, kill and wound both American and Kenyan forces, while also doing damage to equipment and aircraft. Shabaab also had the time to produce a set of photos from the raid, unfurling a black banner of tawhid (monotheism) in front of the burning aircraft and equipment.