Country Risk

Kenyan base overrun in Somalia

01 February 2017
An image - possibly a still from an as yet unreleased video - released by Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen on 31 January shows fighters from the militant group inside the Kenyan base at Kulbiyow. The lack of shell casings around the 105 mm Model 56 pack howitzer suggests it was not fired during the battle. Source: Al-Kataib

Contrary to what was claimed by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), a Kenyan base in Somalia was overrun on 27 January, photographs released by the militant group Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen have shown.

The attack came almost exactly a year after the KDF suffered its worst defeat in Somalia when another base was overrun in similar circumstances.

The KDF released a statement on 27 January saying that Kenyan soldiers serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) had "fiercely engaged an Al-Shabaab group" that had attacked their base in Kulbiyow , close to the Kenyan border in Lower Jubba province, earlier that day.

"In the dawn attack, Al-Shabaab tried to access the camp using a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED). KDF soldiers repulsed the terrorists killing scores," KDF spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Paul Njuguna said in the statement.

In a second statement released later on 27 January, Lt Col Njuguna said two SVBIEDs had been used and admitted that nine KDF soldiers - including two officers - had been killed and another 15 injured and evacuated. He added that more than 70 Al-Shabaab fighters had been killed and that a quick reaction force (QRF) supported by aircraft had arrived at Kulbiyow and was pursuing the fleeing militants.

Lt Col Njuguna's claim that the attack was repulsed and that a QRF rapidly deployed suggested the KDF had learned the lessons from a year earlier, when the KDF base at El-Adde (Ceel Cadde) in Gedo province was overrun by a large Al-Shabaab force on 15 January.

The KDF has refused to say how many soldiers were killed and captured that day, but dismissed claims that 200 died.

An Al-Shabaab fighter sits on a Kenyan WZ-551 APC that appears to have been parked on the inner perimeter of the Kulbiyow base. (Al-Kataib)An Al-Shabaab fighter sits on a Kenyan WZ-551 APC that appears to have been parked on the inner perimeter of the Kulbiyow base. (Al-Kataib)

Al-Shabaab claimed about 100 Kenyans were killed and subsequently released a video showing the battle and its aftermath. The captured weaponry displayed in the video indicated the base was defended by an infantry company supported by heavy weapons and armoured reconnaissance units.

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