Kenyan jihadists blamed for Lamu Shabaab attacks

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020 00:00 | By
US soldier Henry Mitch Mayfield, 23, who was killed in the attack. Photo/PD/COURTESY

By Reuben Mwambingu and Zadock Angira

Kenyan-born al Shabaab commander Abu Hamza al Kinyi is believed to be among five militants killed during the Manda Bay airfield dawn attack on Sunday.

The revelation came as Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i warned that the terror group was targeting universities as recruitment centres for new members.

Yesterday, a senior security official said al Kinyi is thought to have been leading the group that raided Manda military base as well as the Thursday attack on buses plying the Mombasa-Lamu road. 

“Bus passengers attacked by members of the terror group last week said the commander of the gang was speaking fluent Kiswahili and we believe he is the same person who was taken down by the military on Sunday. We have taken fingerprints of the dead terrorists and we will be able to confirm the true identity of the man,” the source said.

“We believe there are more Kenyan-born terrorists who were involved in the two attacks,” the officer, who cannot be identified discussing sensitive security matters, said.

No Kenya casualties

Intelligence reports indicated that the same terror group operating in the Coast region was behind last Thursday’s bus attacks as well as the Sunday Manda raid.

Smoke billows out of the military base used by Kenya and US forces in Lamu after suspected al Shabaab militants launched an attack on Sunday morning. Photo/PD/COURTESY

The Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) is holding one of the attackers who was captured during the raid that left a soldier and two contractors (all Americans) dead.

Yesterday, the Kenyan military maintained there were no causalities on its side during the attack, the first on US forces in Kenya, by al Shabaab.

The American casualty was identified as Fort Rucker soldier Henry Mitch Mayfield, 23.

His parents, based in Chicago, confirmed that the US Army had reached out to them on Sunday afternoon and informed them of the death.

The parents, Henry Mayfield and Carmoneta Horton-Mayfield, said their son called them on January 1 and assured them that everything was fine.

Yesterday morning the mother posted on Facebook: “Thank you to all that have reached out to my husband and I with your touching words regarding the loss of our son army specialist Henry Mayfield Jr.

We may not be able to respond to them all at this time but we feel the love and we appreciate you all. Please keep our family in prayer.” 

Daring escape

He joined the US military in June 2018 and graduated with basic training in October.

A total of three suspects have been arrested in connection with the two attacks. Two of them were among five suspects travelling in Mombasa Raha and Simba Coach buses that were attacked at Nyongoro area on Thursday which left three people dead and several others nursing injuries. They are still in police custody.

Thomas Katsao, a passenger who staged a daring escape from the jaws of death when the Simba Coach bus was ambushed on Thursday, has corroborated the theory of involvement of more Kenyan-born terrorists in the attack.

Kitsao, who came face-to-face with militiamen, said yesterday several of the gunmen spoke Kiswahili while others spoke Somali.

“They were clad in torn and dirty military regalia and their commander was speaking fluent coastal Kiswahili,” said Kitsao.

Al Kinyi is said to have survived a 2014 airstrike and was a close associate of another terrorist identified as Shirwa, who was killed in Baure in Lamu alongside American Thomas Evans after they attempted to breach security at the KDF Baure camp.

Passengers safety

The militants are alleged to have arrived in Boni Forest around Christmas, but five left for Mombasa on December 28. They boarded Mombasa Raha and Simba Coach buses in two different groups, heading back to Lamu on January 3 at Bondeni area at around 6.30am.

Yesterday, Lamu County Commissioner Irungu Macharia said the government was drawing new strategies to deal with the gunmen to ensure the safety of passengers and other road users on the Lamu-Mombasa route.

He said security agencies were mulling introducing more travel restrictions on the route. Macharia and other security chiefs met representatives of all public service vehicles operating on the route following renewed attacks on vehicles.

Soft targets

“We are meeting to exchange ideas and develop new ways of dealing with the threat. Security has been intensified on the road with thorough screening of all road users. We are asking all to adhere to measures put to ensure their safety,” said Macharia.

Security has been heightened across the country since the bus attacks, with at least five suspected terrorists arrested in separate incidents in the last 24 hours (See separate story).

Reports indicate the terrorists are keen on soft targets such as passengers in vehicles, security officers, vital installations and foreigners.

Garissa, Lamu and Mandera counties have borne the brunt of the attacks due to their proximity to Somalia. The terrorists operate within Boni forest and along the border. 

The suspected methods of attack include shootings and bombings, use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), car bombings, suicide vests and grenades.

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