Three Americans killed in Al-Shabab attack on military base in Kenya

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A militant holds the group’s flag next to a burning aircraft, said to be at the Manda Bay Airfield in Kenya, in this image distributed by the Al-Shabab group. (Al-Shabaab via Reuters)
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Above, US airmen from the 475th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron conduct a flag-raising ceremony at Camp Simba, Manda Bay, Kenya in this photo taken on Aug. 26, 2019. (Staff Sgt. Lexie West/US Air Force via AP)
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Kenyan police officers check vehicles traveling from Lamu to Malindi on January 2, 2020 after an earlier ambush by gunmen, which killed three people. (AFP)
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Updated 07 January 2020

Three Americans killed in Al-Shabab attack on military base in Kenya

  • Kenya military: Four of the attackers have been killed
  • Al-Shabab has been fighting to overthrow the UN-backed Somali government

NAIROBI/WASHINGTON: Three Americans — one US military servicemember and two contractors — were killed by Somalia’s Al-Shabab militant group during an attack on Sunday on a military base in Kenya used by both US and Kenyan forces, the US military said.

The military’s Africa Command confirmed the deaths and said two other Americans who work for the US Department of Defense were also wounded in the attack on the Manda Bay Airfield in Lamu county, close to the Somali border.

“The wounded Americans are currently in stable condition and being evacuated,” Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a statement.

The attack presents another crisis for Washington just as the Pentagon grapples with a rapidly escalating standoff with Iran following a Friday US drone strike in Baghdad that killed top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.

Tehran and Washington have traded threats and counter-threats following the strike, stoking fears of open conflict.

The assault by Al-Shabab, which has been fighting for more than a decade to overthrow the Somali government and impose strict Islamic law, began before dawn and lasted around four hours, witnesses and military sources told Reuters.

A Kenyan police report seen by Reuters said the militants destroyed two planes, two US helicopters and multiple American military vehicles during their assault.

The Kenyan military said five militants had been killed in the attack. There were no immediate reports of Kenyan casualties.

In a statement earlier on Sunday, Al-Shabab claimed it had destroyed seven aircraft and three military vehicles, without providing other details. It also published pictures of masked gunmen standing next to an aircraft in flames.

AFRICOM said fewer than 150 US personnel had been at the base, where they provided training and counterterrorism support to East African forces.

“Alongside our African and international partners, we will pursue those responsible for this attack,” said US Army General Stephen Townsend, who leads Africa Command.

Kenyan military spokesman Col. Paul Njuguna said the base had been secured.

“This morning at around 5:30 am an attempt was made to breach security at Manda Air Strip. The attempted breach was successfully repulsed,” he said in a statement.

“Arising from the unsuccessful breach a fire broke out affecting some of the fuel tanks located at the airstrip. The fire has been put under control.”

In the operation to repulse the attack, at least five militants were killed and weapons including four AK47 rifles were seized, Njuguna said.

There was no indication the militants had managed to enter the base. The airfield is separate to another on Manda Island used by commercial flights to Lamu.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 after a spate of cross-border attacks and kidnappings. They were later absorbed into an African Union peacekeeping force, now 21,000-strong, which supports the shaky, Western-backed Somali government.

Independent investigator Benjamin Strick, who analyzes satellite imagery for open-source investigation websites such as Bellingcat, said the photos of gunmen next to a burning plane published by Al-Shabab matched satellite images of buildings and a distinctive aircraft apron adjacent to the base but outside its perimeter.

Residents on nearby Lamu Island, a haven for wealthy tourists and visiting European royalty, said a loud explosion jolted them awake before 4 a.m.

Abdalla Barghash said he later saw a large dark plume of smoke rising from the Manda Bay mainland, where the airstrip and base are located.

Lamu county, which is far more impoverished than the island, is frequently targeted by Al-Shabab with roadside bombs and ambushes on travelers or attacks on isolated villages.

The insurgents killed three passengers when they attacked a bus in the county on Thursday.


UK PM says schools must open in September

Updated 09 August 2020

UK PM says schools must open in September

  • A study has warned that Britain risks a second wave of COVID-19 this winter if schools open without an improved test-and-trace system
  • The government wants all pupils to return to school by early September

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said reopening schools in September was a social, economic and moral imperative and insisted they would be able to operate safely despite the ongoing threat from the pandemic.
His comments follow a study earlier this month which warned that Britain risks a second wave of COVID-19 this winter twice as large as the initial outbreak if schools open without an improved test-and-trace system.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Johnson said restarting schools was a national priority. Schools would be the last places to close in future local lockdowns, he was quoted by another newspaper as telling a meeting on Thursday.
Schools in England closed in March during a national lockdown, except for the children of key workers, and reopened in June for a small number of pupils.
The government wants all pupils to return to school by early September in what Johnson has called a “national priority.”
“Keeping our schools closed a moment longer than absolutely necessary is socially intolerable, economically unsustainable and morally indefensible,” Johnson wrote.
The economic costs for parents who cannot work if schools are shut are spiralling, and the country faces big problems if children miss out on education, the prime minister warned.
“This pandemic isn’t over, and the last thing any of us can afford to do is become complacent. But now that we know enough to reopen schools to all pupils safely, we have a moral duty to do so,” he wrote.
The Sunday Times newspaper reported that he has ordered a public relations campaign to ensure schools open on time and told the meeting last week that they should be the last places to close behind restaurants, pubs and shops.