Hard questions for KDF commanders over deadly Somalia attack

Chief of Defence Forces Gen Samson Mwathethe addresses journalists at Wilson Airport on January 18, 2016 after receiving more soldiers who were airlifted to Nairobi. The military boss said security forces had launched an operation to pursue attackers and find missing soldiers. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP



Like last Friday, they struck at dawn, had amassed fighters and equipment beforehand and were well prepared for what awaited them.

At Hosingo on April 4, 2012, the battle lasted six hours and they were not as lucky as they were last Friday.

The official report from the Kenya Defence Forces contained in a book on Operation Linda Nchi says about 800 Al-Shabaab fighters were involved and 200 were killed.

It was one of the biggest battles in Somalia in the course of the operation KDF started in October 2011 before it became  part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom).

KDF won the Battle of Hosingo mainly because they knew in advance that the enemy was on its way and had prepared appropriately.

The commander in charge there was also able to ask for reinforcement immediately he knew it was necessary.

Even as they attacked in eight waves of 50 to 60 fighters each time, it was possible for reinforcements in the form of fighter jets and helicopters to be called in and this was the game-changer.

That and the experience from other engagements in Somalia since the start of the operation point at areas from which hard questions arise as the search and rescue mission continues in El Adde and families start receiving the bodies of their loved ones.


Before an attack on the Kenyan base, Al-Shabaab engaged in their typical behaviour;  switching off or destruction of transmission masts ran by Hormuud, a major mobile phone service provider in Somalia.

Information was also spread among locals some of whom fled. The militants also attacked from different directions.

Questions for KDF personnel involved would centre on whether there was information as there usually is before an attack and whether the information, if at all, was acted upon, how this was done as well as how the camp responded to the attack. Was the camp exposed?

Tuesday, Voice of America reported the commander of Somali troops in Gedo region, General Abbas Ibrahim Gurey, claiming the commander of the unit had been informed about the possibility of an attack hours before it happened.

That would not come as a surprise as the Somalia National Army routinely shares intelligence with the KDF.

It however raises questions on whether this intelligence was made available and whether it was acted upon.

Other reports from Somalia also suggest the commander in charge of the camp and several other officers had been taken hostage.

While KDF has stated Al-Shabaab is using some of the captured personnel as human shields, it has not revealed  their identities  or ranks.

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