A joint United States-Kenyan airbase near the border with Somalia was attacked by al-Shabab jihadists early on Sunday morning. There are no reports of casualties yet, as American officials described the situation as “fluid.”
The fighting occurred at Camp Simba in Lamu county in eastern Kenya near the Somali border. The terrorists used a suicide car bomb to gain entrance to the base. Kenyan officials said that four attackers were killed and five were captured. Al-Shabab claims that American and Kenyan aircraft and vehicles were destroyed in the pre-dawn attack have not been verified. However, al-Shabab posted pictures on Twitter showing what they claim to be aircraft burning at the airbase.
AFRICOM issued a statement that the airbase at Manda Bay was “still in the process of being fully secured.”
The jihadists from al-Shabab claim that they took over part of the airbase and that intense ground combat with U.S. troops is continuing. However, that report was denied by Kenyan and U.S. officials that stated that the attack was driven back.
The AP reported that two aircraft, a U.S. Cessna and a Kenyan one, as well as two U.S. helicopters and several vehicles, were destroyed. Those aircraft were supposedly a SOCOM C146A Wolfhound and an AFSOC civil reg Dynamic Avlease DHC-8-202 that the Americans used to track terrorists.
Black plumes of smoke were visible coming from the base; they were attributed to a destroyed fuel tank. The Kenyans claim that the fire has been put out.
The terrorists of al-Shabab have allied themselves with al-Qaeda. They are based in neighboring Somalia. However, they have frequently attacked civilian targets in Kenya, usually soft targets such as shopping malls, schools, school buses, etc. While this is the first time that they’ve attacked the U.S. in Kenya, last year they did attack a base in Somalia that the U.S. uses for drone operations.
Some witnesses have come forward to report that they saw 11 al-Shabab fighters outside of the Boni forest where they’ve been known to hide in. Kenyan government forces went to search for them but were unable to locate them. In the past, both the government and terror groups have sustained casualties while fighting in the forest.
About a week ago al-Shabab detonated a truck bomb in Mogadishu that killed 79 people. The U.S. retaliated with an airstrike on al-Shabab fighters. Both the United States and Kenyan air forces have carried out strikes against al-Shabab recently.
Camp Simba has been in use by the U.S. military for over a decade. Just last summer, the troops there did a ceremonial flag-raising which signified that the camp was transitioning “from tactical to enduring operations.”
Update: The Department of Defence (DoD) announced that one American servicemember and two contractors were killed during the attack; a further two servicemembers were wounded.