Jihadists from Somalia’s Al-Shabaab group on Sunday attacked a military base used by US and Kenyan forces in Kenya’s coastal Lamu region, the army spokesman said.
The strike on the base known as Camp Simba in Manda Bay near the picturesque tourist drawcard of Lamu Island is the latest by the group in Kenya since Nairobi sent troops across the border in 2011.
Kenya’s army spokesman Colonel Paul Njuguna said in a statement that at 5:30am “an attempt was made to breach security at Manda Air Strip.”
“The attempted breach was successfully repulsed. Four terrorists bodies have so far been found. The airstrip is safe. Arising from the unsuccessful breach a fire broke out affecting some of the fuel tanks located at the airstrip.”
He said the fire had been brought under control “and standard security procedures are now on-going.”
The US military command for Africa, AFRICOM, confirmed there had been an attack in a brief statement.
“U.S. Africa Command acknowledges there was an attack at Manda Bay Airfield, Kenya and is monitoring the situation. Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the incident. As facts and details emerge, we will provide an update.”
Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia said the assailants “have been repulsed.”
“We are not sure if there are still remnants within,” he said.
Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, saying it had “successfully stormed the heavily fortified military base and have now taken effective control of part of the base.”
The group said there had been both Kenyan and American casualties, but this could not be immediately verified.
Al-Shabaab said the attack was part of its “Al-Quds (Jerusalem) shall never be Judaized” campaign — a term it first used during an attack on the upscale Dusit hotel complex in Nairobi in January last year that left 21 people dead.
The Somali jihadists have staged several large-scale attacks inside Kenya, in retaliation for Nairobi sending troops into Somalia as well as to target foreign interests.
Despite years of costly efforts to fight Al-Shabaab, the group on December 28 managed to detonate a vehicle packed with explosives in Mogadishu, killing 81 people.
The spate of attacks highlights the group’s resilience and capacity to inflict mass casualties at home and in the region, despite losing control of major urban areas in Somalia.
The Lamu region, close to the Somali border, has been plagued by attacks from Al-Shabaab, with frequent strikes along the frontier notably targeting security forces with roadside bombs.
In a November report, a UN panel of experts on Somalia noted an “unprecedented number” of homemade bombs and other attacks across the Kenya-Somalia border in June and July last year.
On Thursday at least three people were killed when suspected Shabaab gunmen ambushed a bus travelling in the area.
According to the Institute for Security Studies, the United States has 34 known military bases in Africa, from where it conducts “drone operations, training, military exercises, direct action and humanitarian activities.”
US military strikes in Somalia surged after President Donald Trump declared the south of the country an “area of active hostilities.”
In an April statement, US military command for Africa, AFRICOM, said it had killed more than 800 people in 110 strikes in Somalia since April 2017.