Security agencies in the country are on high alert following the Al-Shabaab attack on an African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) base in Buulo Mareer area in Shabelle region on Friday.
The militia, estimated to be in their hundreds, stormed a Uganda People’s Defence Force camp with vehicle-borne implosive explosive devices and suicide bombers and killed a number of soldiers while kidnapping others.
The incident happened within the same week that security agencies foiled an attack targeting major roads in Garissa County. On Monday last week, a multi-agency security team killed at least four Al-Shabaab militants and injured several others in Ahadho area.
The militants were said to be among a group on a mission to plant improvised explosive devices (IEDs) along major roads in Garissa targeting the public and security personnel.
The security team recovered assorted arms, including six AK 47 rifles, two rocket-propelled grenades,two grenades and IED-making materials. The team is pursuing more militants in an effort to thwart their plans to launch attacks in the North Eastern region.
Though security agencies are yet to disclose whether the attack in Somalia was in retaliation to the ongoing government onslaught against the militia, the incident occurred just hours after an air strike against the terror group in the same area. The air strike destroyed weapons and equipment that the militia had previously stolen.
Kenya has been on alert since the Somali government kicked off a massive onslaught against Al-Shabaab last year to prevent entry of the militia into the country.
“The current crackdown on Al-Shabaab terror cells in Somalia ... has tremendously weakened this militant group. Our security agencies are on high alert to ensure that these militants do not cross into our territory,” Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki said while issuing his inaugural state of homeland security in February.
The country’s alertness is expected to go beyond its borders and into Somalia where Kenya Defence Forces troops are fighting Al-Shabaab under ATMIS. This will include heightened protection and surveillance of its bases to avert attacks such as the 2016 one in El Adde.
Already, Kenya has constructed 14 fully equipped forward operating bases along its border with Somalia as part of efforts to bolster security ahead of next year’s draw down of its forces. The bases will play a critical role in the phased reopening of the border.
While responding to the Friday attack on the Ugandan base, President Yoweri Museveni took a swipe at the level of his troops’ preparedness.
“Some of the soldiers there did not perform as expected and panicked, which disorganised them and the Al-Shabaab took advantage of that to overrun the base,” said the President. “The CDF has set up a Board of Inquiry and the full facts will come out, including the details of the casualties,” he added as he vowed to take action against the militia.
In a statement, the United States Department of State’s Spokesperson Mathew Millerstrongly condemned the attack.
“We express our deepest condolences to the victims’ families and friends and wish a full recovery to those injured. The United States commends the bravery and sacrifice of the troops participating in this important mission. We stand with our Somali and African Union partners in the fight to defeat terrorism and to advance peace and stability for the Somali people,” he said.