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Burning questions linger on deadly El Adde attack one year later

By Paul Wafula | January 29th 2017
Kenya Defence Forces. (Photo: Courtesy)

Kenyans were still waiting for Chief of Kenya Defence Forces Gen Samson Mwathethe to give comprehensive answers on last year’s El Adde attack when Friday’s attack in Kulbiyow happened.

After the El-Adde attack on January 15 last year, Gen Mwathethe promised to address Kenyans’ questions and pleaded for patience “given the magnitude of the attack.”

He promised to give an account of the attack in which 173 soldiers lost their lives, once the military collected all the facts.

“The information needs to be accurate...this may take long...I ask you to be patient and to support their families,” Mwathethe said. Despite an inquiry within the military and a parallel parliamentary investigation, there is no public disclosure about the attack and the lessons that should be drawn from it.

A year later, the emboldened Al Shabaab militants came back in similar form and manner and overran the Kulbiyow camp near Hughulo, and left casualties.

More questions will now be asked about the circumstances under which over 300 soldiers, some newly married, paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect Kenya.

Friday’s attack at Kulbiyow was the fourth Amisom base to be overrun by Al Shabaab.

On June 26, 2015 the terror group overran a Burundian base in Leego and the Ugandan base in Janaale was overrun on September 1, 2015. “Al-Shabaab’s tactics should thus have been predictable. Yet most of the available evidence suggests the main problems at El Adde were the poor operational setup and procedures and the decision to deploy such vulnerable forward operating bases in remote areas garrisoned by so few troops,” a report by the International Peace Institute (IPI) reviewing the weaknesses of El Adde attack says.

Just like the El Adde attack, reports indicate that there was intelligence on an impending attack before the end of January.

KDF says Al-Shabaab used three vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to breach the El Adde camp’s defenses.

Reports indicate that two fighters drove suicide car bombs into Kulbiyow base before others stormed it, killing the soldiers and seizing vehicles and weapons.

After the El Adde attack, it emerged that the late Major Geoffrey Obwoge, the commanding officer, had been briefed on an impending attack.

There were questions about how well the troops rehearsed coordination points, defensive positions and procedures to adopt in case of attack.

It was suspected that there was a major breakdown in defensive procedures that reportedly saw atleast twenty KDF troops escape the base in two trucks early on in the battle.

There are also questions on Kenyan forces’ relationship with the Somalia National Army (SNA) that deserted their camp and let KDF to face the enemy alone in the El Adde attack.

What is not in dispute is that to be able to carry the attack, Al-Shabaab must have somehow conducted a reconnaissance survey and surveillance of the El Adde base to plan the attack.

Could this have happened without detection by Amisom and how did they deal with it if they detected it? Then there is the question of the size of the attacking unit of al-Shabaab militants.

The International Peace Institute has also asked whether the basic defensive obstacles (such as chicanes, ditches and barriers) were placed in front of the main entrance to stop any approaching vehicle.

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