Al-Shabab fighters attack Kenya military base in Somalia


Islamist militant al-Shabab fighters have launched an attack on a Kenyan military base in southern Somalia.African Union troops in Somalia in April 2015

The al-Qaeda-linked group says it has killed more than 50 soldiers and seized military vehicles and weapons.

But a Kenyan military spokesman said the dawn attack was repelled, the base was not overrun and scores of insurgents were killed in the fighting.

A year ago al-Shabab carried out a similar attack on a Kenyan base in the town el-Ade.

In that raid the Islamist group said it had killed more than 100 soldiers, but the Kenyan government refused to give its casualty figures.

Kenya’s ministry of defence spokesman has not confirmed the deaths of any soldiers in the latest attack.

Lt Col Paul Njuguna, however, did say that soldiers had killed “scores” of al-Shabab fighters when the attackers tried to enter the camp in Kolbiyow, near the Kenyan border, after setting off a car bomb.

Al-Shabab says it has taken control of the base and surrounding area, according to the AFP news agency.

Kenya contributes more than 3,600 troops to the Africa Union mission helping the UN-backed government tackle al-Shabab in Somalia.

It appears lessons have not been learnt from the attack on the Kenyan base in el-Ade town last year. Regardless of the death toll this time, al-Shabab’s audacity to repeat such an assault on a location where the Kenyans should be strongest reveals how much work still needs to be done in counterinsurgency.

The attack will also spur calls in Kenya for a review of its ambitions to stabilise its north-eastern neighbour, where it first sent soldiers in October 2011.

There appears to be a view in the government that the greater the silence about its losses in the battlefield, the less criticism it will receive. There are still unanswered questions from el-Ade, with some families of slain soldiers left in the dark about the fate of their loved ones.

One year later, this latest attack is proving that there is only so much that the Kenya and African Union mission can sweep under the carpet.