Kenyan army vows to sustain fight against al-Shabab after attack

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Smoke rises from a millitary base jointly used by the U.S. and Kenyan army in Lamu County, Kenya, Jan. 5, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Kenyan military on Sunday vowed to pursue al-Shabab terrorists after a foiled attack at its airstrip which its soldiers use along with U.S. forces in the coastal region of Lamu.

Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) spokesman Paul Njuguna also confirmed that five al-Shabab terrorists were killed in the 5:30 a.m. attack at Manda Airstrip in Lamu county in which the extremist group claimed responsibility.

Njuguna said the situation at the airstrip which is located near the military base has been contained on the ground and normal airstrip functions are set to resume.

"Following a military operation, five bodies of terrorists were recovered. Search for more is ongoing," Njuguna said in a statement.

He said one PKM gun, four RPG launchers, four AK 47 rifles, one hand grenade and assorted ammunition were captured.

"Multi-agency forces charged with defending and protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our Republic will continue to pursue and destroy these forces of evil until they are smoked from their caves and permanently destroyed," Njuguna said.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the latest attack in a statement, saying they had successfully stormed the heavily fortified military base and effectively controled part of the base.

The military group which has stepped up its attacks on Kenyan in the recent past said there had been both Kenyan and American casualties. However, this could not be verified.

However, Njuguna said terrorists are known for propagating false and misleading information in an attempt to grab headlines and feed their egos. "Their contorted plans have not and will never succeed," said the KDF spokesman.

Sources said the joint Kenyan and U.S. forces killed al-Shabab terrorist commander Abu Hamza al Kinyi, 13 km deep inside the Boni Forest which the militants have been using as their hideout. This could not be independently verified.

Al Kinyi, a Kenyan who joined the terrorists' group in 2013 was believed to be the commander of the botched Manda airstrip attack.

A Kenyan police report says two fixed-wing aircraft, a U.S. Cessna and a Kenyan caravan were destroyed along with two U.S. helicopters and multiple U.S. vehicles at the airstrip.

Njuguna had earlier said a fire broke out during 5.30 a.m. incident affecting some of the fuel tanks located at the airstrip.

"The fire has been put under control and standard security procedures are now ongoing," said Njuguna in a statement.

An internal police report clarified that the destroyed aircraft at the joint U.S. and Kenya military airstrip at Manda in Lamu were not in use.

"All were on irreparable condition hence of zero value to the military forces. Only one of the vehicles affected was in use," says the report seen by Xinhua.

The U.S. Army said that initial reports reflect damage to infrastructure and equipment and promised to disclose more information once accountability of personnel assessment is completed.

The police said five suspects believed to have participated in the attack have been arrested and are helping the security agencies with investigations.

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