Al-Shabaab militants suffered yet another setback on Sunday after a largely flopped attack on US Naval Base in Kenya, authorities said.
Irungu Macharia, the Lamu County Commissioner told reporters that KDF militants managed to arrest five suspected militants within the vicinity of the base.
The militants, he said, were seized with heavy weaponry including Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) which they were using during the onslaught.
He said that “KDF has managed to arrest five of them. They were heavily armed and had intentions of continuing with the fight.”
Total number of arrested militants hits five
But the official did not reveal immediate actions against the militants citing “serious breach of security if I discuss the aftermath”.
The arrest of the five militants takes to the total of those apprehended within the last 48 hours to six. Interestingly, they were all arrested in Lamu.
One militant was arrested on Thursday hours after a bus attack in Nyongoro area in Lamu. Four others had been killed during the crackdown.
Kenya and the US confirm the attack
US military confirmed the attack saying “we are monitoring the situation. Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the incident.”
Earlier, Col Paul Njuguna, the KDF spokesman termed the attack as “breach of security” at Manda Airstrip in the coastal region.
He added that “The attempted breach was successfully repulsed. Four terrorist bodies have so far been found. The airstrip is safe.”
The military boss denied any casualties inflicted on both the US Marine and the KDF troops who are stationed at the base.
Flights to Manda Island suspended
Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), which supervises air transport, canceled all flights scheduled at Manda Airstrip, Director General Gilbert Kibe said.
“We have suspended civilian aircraft to that airstrip indefinitely. We are accessing disruption and would advise over its opening later,” he said.
KDF had secured the airstrip after the temporary siege, even though heavy smoke was still sighted within the base my Sunday noon.
But KDF said: “The fire has been put under control and standard security procedures are now on-going.”
Besides giving space for military aircraft, the airport is used by domestic flights which usually ferry tourists to Manda Island.
Skyward Express on its part said: “We regret to inform passengers traveling with us in and out of Lamu that the airport has been closed until further notice.”
The attack executed early morning
While the Al-Shabaab militants claimed responsibility, adding that both Kenya and the US suffered casualties, the Kenyan government has remained tight-lipped about the matter.
The incident took place at 4 am local time and the intense fighting was reported even past noon, indicating that operation was still going on
“Fighters covertly entered the enemy lines, successfully stormed the heavily fortified military base and have now effectively taken control, inflicting casualties on both American and Kenyan troops,” Al-Shabaab said.
After accessing the base from Hindi, witnesses said, the militants disconnected power within and outside the base.
Al-Shabaab says the attack has nothing to do with US-Iran scuffle
According to Al-Jazeera TV, a senior Al-Shabaab spokesperson said: “The attack has nothing to do with the US and Iran standoff.”
Iran had on Friday warned Washington of retaliatory attacks following the murder of General Qassem Soleimani by the US forces in Baghdad.
The attack also comes just a fortnight after the US confirmed plans to withdraw or redeploy dozens of troops working in Africa under AFRICOM.
However, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Washington had no intention to withdraw at least 500 troops stationed in Somalia.