Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) deployed as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) were caught up in a small arms engagement in the southern town of Tabda on New Year’s Day. KDF troops killed seven al-Shabaab militants and wounded an unknown number of fighters in the exchange.
The KDF fared better this time than in the past, as they have suffered a number of heavy losses in the region. After the exchange, members of the KDF were able to recover nine AK-47 rifles, 10 magazines, two rocket-propelled grenade launchers and three grenades, all seized from the militants in the clash.
Although this seems to be a small unit attack, given what has been recovered, this is a positive for the KDF. It’s also a positive for the AMISOM mission in Somalia. The whole force has suffered terrible losses at the hands of al-Shabaab. In the latest onslaught, KDF said two soldiers sustained minor injuries during what was described as an intense gunfight on January 1 at about 11 a.m.
Confirming the exchange, KDF spokesman Col. Paul Njuguna said, “Kenyan soldiers will remain vigilant and will continue to relentlessly pursue terrorists to ensure the peace and security of Kenya, as well as support AMISOM operations in order to stabilize Somalia.”
This is the latest onslaught on the militants in the region in late 2018 in which al-Shabaab suffered heavy losses. On December 20, U.S. military forces killed 11 militants in two airstrikes in Beled Amin, South Somalia. On December 17, the U.S. military confirmed it had killed 62 members of the al-Shabaab extremist group in Gandarshe, Somalia. The U.S. Africa Command statement said no civilians were injured.
Al-Shabaab has had a lot to contend with in the recent months, with the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the northern part of the country. This latest incident is undoubtedly one of the largest losses to the group in some years, although these losses seem to do very little in slowing their ability to attack the central government based in Mogadishu. The capital has been rocked by a number of attacks in the past couple of months.
There are reports both groups have been involved in a number of small arms engagements. U.S. airstrikes have proven effective and the Somali army is on the rise backed by AMISOM winning a number of small firefights. Somalia remains a highly volatile place indeed, but small wins are welcome news for the region. The central government still has a long way to go before the region can prosper, but there are high hopes for the Somali people.