Al-Shabaab attack on Kenyan soldiers leaves dozens dead

Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the deaths of 57 Kenyan soldiers in a remote military base in Kulbiyow, near the Kenyan border.

Al-Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, told Reuters that the two fighters drove suicide car bombs into the base, while other militants stormed in, killing soldiers and seizing vehicles and weapons.

“We are pursuing the Kenyan soldiers who ran away into the woods,” Mr Musab said.

Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) denied Al-Shabaab’s claim of 57 military deaths, saying “scores” of Al-Shabaab fighters had been killed.

“Al-Shabaab is known for propaganda. Whatever they are saying about the attack is incorrect, including the number,” KDF spokesman, Colonel Paul Njugunam, told Al Jazeera.

A KDF statement put the number of deaths at nine, with 70 Al-Shabaab militants killed.

The base had been manned by roughly 120 Kenyan soldiers, deployed by a regional peacekeeping mission with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

KDF spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Njuguna, confirmed the remains of the dead soldiers had been flown to Nairobi, while the wounded were being treated for their injuries at the Forces Memorial Hospital.

“The next of kin of the fallen heroes as well as the injured soldiers were notified and plans to support them were established in line with the Defence Forces Standing Orders,” a KDF statement said.

One of the soldiers killed in the raid narrowly missed a similar attack in January 2016. Corporal Moses had just left the El Adde military base when an Al-Shabaab attack killed more than 150 soldiers.

His family members told The Standard that his mother, Christine Mwaluwa, had begged him to quit the military. Corporal Moses is survived by his wife and three children, aged 10, 8 and 2.

Al-Shabaab has been fighting for years to enforce its strict interpretation of Islam on Somalia. The group has launched at least four largescale attacks on military bases over the last several years, moving into increasingly regional areas.

The group’s influence was hit hard when it was driven out from Mogadishu in 2011.

Somalia has been shaken by instability and conflict for more than two decades, after the overthrowing of military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

The latest attack should be treated as a stark reminder to the international community that Somalia is still very much at war. Amidst reports of funding cuts to AMISOM and troop withdrawals, it is vital that the world does not turn its back on Somalians, who continue to bear the brunt of the nation’s ongoing conflict.