By Lindsey DeLorie, International News Writer
On January 27, Al-Shabab militants launched an attack on a Kenyan military base located in the south of Somalia at dawn. Al-Shabab is an Islamist militant group with connections to Al-Qaeda that remains a threat to Somalia’s UN-backed government. The group has carried out numerous attacks on Kenya, which is on Somalia’s southwestern border.
The group began as a radical youth wing in Somalia’s Union of Islamic Courts. In 2006 the Union of Islamic Courts took control of Mogadishu before being forced out by both Somalian and Ethiopian government forces. According to the BBC, Al-Shabab currently has anywhere between 7,000 and 9,000 fighters. Al-Shabab has long been labeled a terrorist group.
Al-Shabab stated that as a group it has killed more than 50 soldiers during the recent attack on a Kenyan military base in Somalia.
They also stated that they seized military weaponry and vehicles. A Kenyan military spokesperson disagreed, stating the militant group was unable to overrun the base and multiple members of Al-Shabab were killed during the fighting.
There have been varying reports between Al-Shabab and the Kenyan military in the past; over a year ago Al-Shabab attacked on a Kenyan base in el-Alde. After that attack the militants reported killing over 100 Kenyan soldiers, while the Kenyan military refused to give information on casualties on either side. Kenya’s Ministry of Defense spokesman has yet to confirm any casualties of Kenyan soldiers from the most recent attack. According to the AFP News Agency, Al-Shabab has stated it has taken over the base but a Kenyan military spokesmen says the attack was repelled.
It is clear that Al-Shabab does not feel threatened by the presence of the Kenyan military in Somalia.
It is especially concerning that a year after the el-Alde attack the Kenyan military continues to lack strength in an area where they should be strong.
There is also a growing concern that the government believes remaining silent about casualties will keep criticism at bay, yet it keeps families in the dark about the whereabouts and likelihood of their family members being alive.
Mixed information, continual violence, and poverty is proving that Kenya and the African Union do not have as much of a handle on Somalia’s situation as they would like the world and UN to believe.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 7th print edition.
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