Mystery of missing Kenyan commander in Somalia

The fate of the Kenya Defence Forces commander who was in charge of El Adde camp where tens of soldiers were killed remains unknown, four days after the murderous Al Shabaab militia overran the Kenya Defence Force’s El Adde camp.

The Standard has established that the commander (name withheld) is from the Eldoret-based 9th Kenya Rifles. He was on his second tour of duty, having served in southern Somalia before, according to military sources.

The news came on a day one soldier was found alive among bodies of his dead colleagues in the devastated camp by Special Forces who for the first time gained entry into the camp yesterday afternoon.

More survivors of the worst attack on Kenyan soldiers ever, in which tens of KDF personnel are said to have been killed, were reported have entered Kenya at El Wak after trekking for days.

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The commander is alleged to have received intelligence over the imminent attack on Kenyans.

General Abbas Ibrahim Gure, a controversial officer in Somalia’s military, was quoted by Voice of America (VOA) saying that Kenyan forces were warned of the attack on the base hours before the assault.

In El Wak the gallant soldiers, whose number we have not been established, arrived injured and exhausted after walking in dense bush for about 100km.

KDF interrogate members of the family who turned up to seek information of where about their relatives at Gilgil barracks on 19-01-2015 following the missing of solders in the recent attack in Somalia. (PHOTO: BONIFACE THUKU/ STANDARD)

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An officer based in Nairobi told The Standard that “many soldiers are now turning up at El Wak wounded, some with shrapnel injuries and others with bullet wounds. They have walked through bushes fighting their way towards the Kenyan border since Friday.”

The news came as bodies of 23 fallen soldiers were airlifted to Nairobi yesterday.

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Asked why the survivors chose to walk towards El Wak instead of seeking refuge in other KDF bases in Gedo which are nearer to El Adde, the officer said “areas near El Adde and between the Kenyan camps have never been completely pacified and are considered enemy territory”.

There are fewer enemy combatants between El Adde and El Wak despite the long distance, he said.

Meanwhile, there is growing suspicion that the layout of the El Adde camp was most likely leaked to the insurgents who attacked and killed the Kenyan soldiers. Military sources also confirmed the suspicions saying the suicide truck that wrecked the camp exploded on hitting the camp’s command centre.

The command centre is where communications are controlled from and also hosts the armoury and fuel depots. There is suspicion that a traitor from within KDF or someone within the Somali National Army (SNA) leaked information to Al Shabaab.

Although SNA officials do not normally enter Kenyan camps, they are capable of gathering intelligence about KDF during routine contacts.

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According to General Gure, the Kenyan commander received intelligence hours before the militia attacked the camp. The commander is alleged to have said that the Kenyans “were ready for it”.

Gure is a controversial general and a veteran of the defunct Somalia army under the late dictator Siad Barre. When Kenyan forces invaded Gedo in October 2011, he was based at Burhache opposite Kenya’s El Wak, the launching base at that time for Kenya’s war efforts in the so called Northern Sector, which covers the whole of Gedo towards the Juba River.

His claims have not been independently confirmed but there is no love lost between him and many within the KDF and the Ras Kamboni Brigade which controls Kismayu alongside Kenya’s and Sierra Leonean forces in the Southern sector.

In June 2013, Gure was detained by KDF in Kismayu, apparently on orders of Kenya’s military. Reports indicate that Abbas was deployed to Kismayu from Burhache on orders from Somalia’s interim government in Mogadishu against the wishes of the Kenyans and Ras Kamboni brigade. He was later released.

He is now based in Bardheere which was captured by Kenyan and Ethiopian forces in July last year.

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The VOA report does not indicate how the alleged intelligence was channelled to the Kenyan camp at El Adde.

“It was information we knew, the information was received, and they were ready for it,” Abbas said in a telephone interview with  VOA on Sunday.

The VOA report quotes some journalists and another official alleging that local residents supplied intelligence about an impending attack based on the arrival of groups of men in El Adde.

Accounts from KDF indicated on Sunday that the only unusual movements in the town on that day occurred about three hours before the assault when most of the civilians vanished.

KDF sources have said that days before the attack there was no mass exodus of civilians, the traditional sign of the arrival of insurgents and imminent attack.

Yesterday an official told The Standard that the SNA most likely provided pre-attack intelligence but added that it is unclear whether there was adequate time to improvise defences.

The official said that theoretically it was possible to destroy an advancing suicide truck even if it was an armoured personnel carrier using 82 millimetre and 105 millimetre rounds or highly explosive and armour-piercing ammunition fired from hand-held anti-tank guns stocked by Kenya’s infantry forces.

The official also said that even with adequate information, it would have been difficult to confront armoured explosive trucks without helicopters with night vision capabilities but added that, theoretically, the camp commanders could have organised methods, including trenches, sand embankments or tree logs to slow down the Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device.

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KDFterrorismal ShabaabISISAU MissionAMISOMKenyan forces in Somalia attacked