JUBA – America security officials say Kenyan soldiers were lax and some hid in nearby thickets and bushes as Islamist al Shabaab fighters stormed Manda bay air base in an attempt to attack Camp Simba, a military facility used by the U.S. to train local forces in counter-terrorism on January 5.
“Surprised by the attack, American commandos took around an hour to respond. Many of the local Kenyan forces, assigned to defend the base, hid in the grass while other American troops and support staff were corralled into tents, with little protection, to wait out the battle,” the New York Times reported today.
The performance of the Kenyan troops during and after the battle also frustrated American officials.
“At one point, the Kenyans announced that they had captured six of the attackers, but they all turned out to be bystanders and were released,” the paper reported.
Pentagon was reportedly alarmed by the assault that it ordered about 100 troops from the 101st Airborne Division to establish security at the base.
The Pentagon is also currently probing “the possibility that the attackers had help from Kenyan staff on the base.” Details are scanty about how militants managed to breach security at a facility which ought to be highly alert based on its location.
“The assault represented a serious security lapse given how much of a target the base was and its location near the border with Somalia,” Murithi Mutiga, the International Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa project director, based in Nairobi was quoted as saying.
According to one American official, the group likely had patiently watched the base and had selected their attack based on the Americans’ well-established patterns.
Three Americans; one U.S. military service member and two contractors were killed during the assault, which cost the Pentagon millions of dollars in loss of military hardware.