The United States has condemned the attack by Al-Shabaab on Kenyan soldiers in Somalia last Friday morning which left several of them dead adding that it would continue supporting Kenya’s operations inside Somalia.
State Department spokesman John Kirby also offered the US’s ‘deepest condolences’ to the families of Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers killed at a base in Al-Ade in Somalia’s Gedo region.
The US has directly supplied more than $500 million (Sh51 billion) worth of military training, equipment and intelligence resources to the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), which comprises troops and police from Kenya, Ethiopia, Burundi, Uganda, Djibouti, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Ghana.
Washington has provided a similar, additional amount of assistance to Amisom through the United Nations, bringing its contributions to the AU force in Somalia to over $1 billion during the past eight years.
SUPPORT FOR AMISOM
Briefing reporters at the State Department on Friday, Mr Kirby said the US remains ‘fully committed’ to assisting Amisom as well as the governments of Kenya and Somalia in combating terrorism and to enhance security within Kenya as well as in Somalia.
But according to a diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks in 2011, the US initially opposed Kenyan military involvement in southern Somalia.
A December 2009 communication recounts that a high-ranking State Department official had told Kenya’s then-Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula that Nairobi’s ‘Jubaland initiative’ was ‘a bad idea that would more likely add to Somalia’s instability than to help stabilise the country.’
Kenya was planning at the time to recruit and train an ethnic Somali force to battle Shabaab in the Juba River region of Somalia bordering Kenya.
The US later expressed its support for the Kenyan troops’ presence in Somalia after the KDF contingent there was formally incorporated into Amisom.
Johnnie Carson, then the State Department’s top Africa official, said at a news conference in Nairobi in 2012 that the US was ‘very pleased’ that Kenyan forces had begun operating in Somalia under Amisom’s guidance.
Somalia’s al Shabaab Islamist group said on Sunday it had captured some Kenyan soldiers during an attack last week on a military base in the west of Somalia near the Kenyan border.
The group, which did not say how many soldiers were held after Friday’s assault, also said in a statement that more than 100 Kenyan soldiers were killed, revising up the number from the more than the 63 dead it had previously claimed.
There was no immediate comment from the Kenyan military or AMISOM, the African Union force in which the Kenyans serve.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Friday that “some of our patriots in uniform” were killed.
Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery said on Saturday the wounded were being evacuated to Nairobi for treatment and bodies of those killed would be brought home. Neither gave figures.
“Mujahideen fighters … stormed the Kenyan base in the early hours of Friday morning, killing more than 100 Kenyan invaders, seizing their weapons and military vehicles and even capturing Kenyan soldiers alive,” al Shabaab said.
AMISOM and Kenyan forces had said al Shabaab attacked a Somali National Army base and AMISOM forces counter-attacked.
Al Shabaab said the attack was in retaliation for the Kenyan “invasion of Muslim lands” and what it said was the army’s “persecution of innocent Muslims” inside Kenya, a reference to the government’s pursuit of suspected militants in the country.