When Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) made their first incursion into Somalia in 2011, I was there to witness one of the largest military incursions by the Kenyan army into a foreign country.

The move, following the kidnapping of a female French tourist and the murder of her husband in Lamu, caught both Kenyans and foreign countries by surprise.

Foreign observers were sceptical of the fighting abilities of KDF, with the Ugandan leader reportedly scornfully describing the force, which had never fought against a convention army since independence, as a “career army.”

But a display of its military arsenal and the superior kit of the soldiers, coupled with major victories against the rag-tag Al-Shabaab militia, especially tactical the capture of Kismayu, made everyone stand and take notice. Nonetheless, KDF has lost men, including a fighter pilot and two young lieutenants in fierce battles. But the latest massacre, in which over 100 soldiers are feared dead, will rank as the biggest setback in the history of KDF.

An unknown number of soldiers have died, many, including the commander of the ill-fated Kenyan military camp in Somalia, are missing, while some are reported to be in the hands of the enemy.

A man believed to be a KDF soldier is heard on Andalus radio website saying, “We have been taken hostage, many of our colleagues were killed. We are now in the hands of Al-Shaabab as Prisoners of War. The radio station associated with Al-Shabaab also claims that 12 KDF soldiers were taken captive by the terror outfit.

It appears the raid at El-Adde, which loosely translated means ‘the white well,’ now turned into a red well of blood, was a cleverly coordinated affair, with intelligence reports indicating that Al-Shabaab might have received assistance from another foreign militia.

“We were attacked around 5am. We are now appealing to the AU (African Union), the Kenyan government and the Kenyan people to secure our release so that we can go on with our lives,” another man says on the radio website. KTN could not however authentic the claims and voices posted on the radio’s website.

Mohamed Abdullahi, an expert on Somali affairs, says the attack occurred in one of the most difficult regions to police.
“KDF was given the toughest region. They might have been sitting ducks,” Abdullahi told KTN.

Details are also emerging that Al-Shabaab could have had insider information about the attack, with senior military intelligence officials telling KTN that army intelligence might have gotten wind of the planned attack weeks before it occurred.

More unsettling are reports that the military camp might have been blown up by powerful explosives mounted on four motor vehicles two weeks after a new group of soldiers arrived in Somalia.

Highly placed sources have told KTN News that the KDF military camp was completely decimated.

Intelligence officials told KTN that efforts to scramble attack helicopters to reinforce the KDF soldiers at the besieged camp were made difficult because military choppers could not fly low because most of them are not fitted with anti-missile gadgets.

The military camp is said to have held more than 200 KDF soldiers, some newly recruited. Shockingly, Al-Shabaab insurgents are said to have launched what is now believed to be a diversionary attack at the Somali National Army base a few kilometres from the Kenyan army camp, yet the Somali soldiers had already left.

How an army camp was overrun during the Friday dawn attack and why it took long for other Amisom (African Union Mission in Somalia) forces to respond has raised questions.

A source indicated that the EU (European Union) spends 200 million pounds on African peacekeeping forces in Somalia, money that never gets to the Somali National Army, which perhaps fuelled antipathy and made locals uncooperative with the peacekeeping forces.

For now, the exact number of KDF soldiers killed remains unknown. So far, the remains of only 34 fallen soldiers have been flown to Nairobi, raising fears that the deadly attack at the military camp could have claimed more lives than earlier feared.

Story transcribed from a KTN News report