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Al-Shabaab attacks Camp Simba, Kenya, kill US personnel and DOD contractors

By | Rachel Brooks

Contributor | Telegraph Local 

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The al-Qaeda linked jihadi threat al-Shabaab has attacked US personnel in Manda Bay, Kenya. 

Citing Fox News, the attack was on the Africa Command compound in Manda Bay. This is a compound where US servicemembers train African service members as well as protect US interests in the area. The attack on Sunday involved “indirect small arms fire.” 

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After the parameter was breached, the Kenya Defense Forces and the US Africa Command were able to repel the al-Shabaab attack.

Al Jazeera report that three people were killed in the Sunday Al-Shabaab attack. Among the dead are one US service member and two civilians. Two other Department of Defense personnel were wounded in the attack on Camp Simba. 

Kenya Defense Forces released a statement on Sunday that, “at approximately 5:30 am an attempt was made to breach security at Manda Air Strip.” The statement continued, “The attempted breach was successfully repulsed. Four terrorists’ bodies have so far been found. The airstrip is safe.” 

The base is also in Lamu county which is the scene of an atrocious attack on civilian bus commuters this week, citing BBC

 

BBC also reports that about 80 people were killed in a bombing in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu on December 28, 2019. It is unclear if all three incidents are related. 

The BBC continues to report that the US has stepped up military operations against al-Shabaab since Donald Trump became president in 2017. The US conducted more airstrikes in Somalia in 2019 than in any previous year.

The Guardian reports that Camp Simba has 100 US personnel present, according to Pentagon figures. The US forces adjoining in the Manda Bay airfield are trainers for counterterror support to East African partners.  

Al Jazeera’s Nairobi correspondent Haru Mutasa said this,

“The base is heavily fortified and al-Shabaab still managed to break through. We are told that the actual attack is over and that Kenyan and American forces are combing through the area trying to find those responsible.” 

There has been some key interest in this Al-Shabaab attack as it follows US-Iran tension escalations. However, the Guardian reports that Al-Shabaab is a Sunni Islamic group, whereas Iran’s militias are predominately Shia. Al-Shabaab at this time has no known links to Shiite Iran or its proxies. 

The attack could possibly have been inspired by the rival relationship between Al-Shabaab and Hezbollah. Citing the Council of Foreign Relations archive documentation, Al-Shabaab and Hezbollah are bitter rival militant groups. However, even as long as 2006 when the archived document was released, al-Qaeda and Hezbollah may unite against a common enemy_the US. This archive piece also states that in the mid-90s al Qaeda members were known to sometimes visit Hezbollah training camps in Lebanon. Because of this on-again-off-again relationship between Al-Shabaab/Al Qaeda and Hezbollah it is difficult to represent any possible connections to US-Iran tensions and soft targets associated with this attack. More recent reports from Combating Terrorism Center, (April 2019) suggest that al-Shabaab and Hezbollah are reigniting their rivalry. Based on this analysis, it is likely safe to infer that Al-Shabaab’s recent attack is a feat of ambition for Al-Shabaab Salafi dominance. It could be inspired by the rise against the United States and is likely a while in the making. It is most likely, not Iran-backed revenge. Telegraph Local is investigating to confirm whether this unique case was in any way affiliated with Hezbollah or if Al-Shabaab acted on its own resources.

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Citing Washington Post, this attack on  Manda Bay marks a rare, successful Al-Shabaab attack on a foreign military compound. It is especially unusual given that it took place outside of Al-Shabaab’s regular area of operations. 

Al-Shabaab receives its funding through a Somalia-sweeping protection racket that works like a sub-taxation system within the country. The group threatens farmers and local businesses with death if they fail to pay the protection fees, citing Washington Post and their Nairobi correspondent Rael Ombuor.

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