Somalia’s al-Shabab extremist group attacked a military base used by U.S. and Kenyan troops in coastal Kenya early Sunday, destroying U.S. aircraft and vehicles, Kenyan authorities said.
Kenya’s military said the pre-dawn assault was repulsed and at least four attackers were killed.
U.S. Africa Command said the airfield is cleared but still in the process of being “fully secured.”
The attack is not linked to tensions between U.S. and Iran, said AFRICOM spokesman Air Force Col. Christopher Karns.
“Al-Shabaab very much has its own agenda and seeks to attack U.S., African, and Western interests,” he said.
It was the first known al-Shabab attack against U.S. forces inside Kenya, a key base for fighting one of the world’s most resilient extremist organizations.
A plume of black smoke rose above the base near the border with Somalia, where al-Shabab is based. Residents said a car bomb had exploded. Lamu county commissioner Irungu Macharia told The Associated Press that five suspects were arrested and were being interrogated.
AFRICOM confirmed the attack on Camp Simba in Lamu county. Karns called al-Shabab’s claims, including that its attack inflicted severe casualties, “grossly exaggerated.”
There was no report of U.S. or Kenyan deaths.
AFRICOM, in a media release, said its forces, along with Kenya Defense Forces, repelled the attack and have cleared the airfield, which is “still in the process of being fully secured.”
The camp, established more than a decade ago, has under 100 U.S. personnel, according to Pentagon figures. A U.S. flag-raising there in August signaled its change “from tactical to enduring operations,” the Air Force said at the time.
An internal Kenyan police report seen by the AP said two fixed-wing aircraft, a U.S. Cessna and a Kenyan one, were destroyed along with two U.S. helicopters and multiple U.S. vehicles at the Manda Bay military airstrip. The report said explosions were heard at around 5:30 a.m. from the direction of the airstrip. The scene, now secured, indicated that al-Shabab likely entered “to conduct targeted attacks,” the report said.
According to another internal report seen by the AP, dated Friday, a villager that day said he had spotted 11 suspected al-Shabab members entering Lamu’s Boni forest, which the extremists have used as a hideout. The report said Kenyan authorities did not find them.