January 05, 2020

US soldier killed as Islamist group al Shabaab attacks Kenyan base
Somalia’s al-Shabaab terror group targeted US forces in neighbouring Kenya for the first time on Sunday, killing three people and destroying American reconnaissance aircraft during an attack on a secretive military base. An unknown number of jihadist militants struck at Camp Simba, an American military facility located on a Kenyan naval base, shortly before dawn. The US military said one US service member and two contractors had been killed, while two while two Department of Defence officials were wounded.  There were “fewer than 150” American soldiers at Camp Simba, which is located on Manda Bay close to the tourist resort of Lamu, when the attack took place, US officials said. Although the militants were unable to penetrate Camp Simba itself, they succeeded in overrunning an adjacent airfield where they set ablaze at least two planes, one of which was an American “Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance” aircraft used for missions in Somalia. The brazen nature of the attack — which took place more than 50 miles south of the Somali frontier — represents a significant escalation in al-Shabaab cross-border operations. The group has frequently carried out attacks on Kenyan troops in retaliation for the Kenyan army’s military incursion into southern Somalia.  But until now it has shied away from attacking US troops stationed in Kenya, although the group did mount mount a failed operation against American forces stationed in Somalia last September. Camp Simba, established in 2004, is one of the largest American military installations in Africa. It is frequently used by US special forces mounting covert operations in Somalia. One prominent analyst, Rashid Abdi, suggested that the attack “may have been a well-timed signal to Iran it is open for tactical alliances” following the US airstrike that killed Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s top general, in Baghdad on Friday. Mr Abdi said that Sunni al-Shabaab is fundamentally hostile to Shia Iran but noted that the Kenyan security services have long accused Gen Soleimani’s Revolutionary Guards Corps of trying to woo the group into a marriage of convenience against the United States. But other analysts rejected the theory, saying that attacks like the one on Camp Simba normally involve months of preparation. They also suggested  that al-Shabaab would alienate potential recruits if it sided with Iran. The US has mounted a growing number of airstrikes against al-Shabaab targets in Somalia in recent years. Sunday’s attack forced a brief closure of Manda Island civilian airport, which is situated across a narrow stretch of water from Camp Simba and is used every year by thousands of British tourists heading to hotels on the Lamu archipelago.
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