An investigation by military defense body United States Africa Command has uncovered that the Manda Bay attack in Lamu County may have been the result of “inadequate focus on potential threats, complacent leadership, and poor oversight”.
Investigation reveals how Al Shabaab infiltrated Manda Bay military base in Lamu
Inadequacy and complacent leadership blamed for the attack
According to investigators, the deadly assault consisted of two attacks on the Manda airbase near Kenya’s border with Somalia.
Investigators determined that one, in which 10 mortar rounds were fired at Camp Simba, was intended to distract troops from responding to the main assault on Manda Bay’s air strip.
At 5:20 a.m. the base was overrun by 30 to 40 of Al Shabab's insurgents. The pre-dawn assault triggered a lengthy firefight and daylong struggle for Kenyan and U.S. forces to search and secure the base.
It was revealed that one of the soldiers known as Specialist Henry Mayfield and a colleague were clearing the runway, when they detected thermal images of what appeared to be hyenas, realizing too late that what they spotted were Al Shabab fighters hiding.
Shortly after, 20 to 30 Al Shabab militants were able to slip through a forest and fired Rocket-Propelled Grenades (RPGs) onto the Magagoni Air Field at the base.
In the first two minutes, the RPGs killed Mayfield in a truck and killed two contractors, Dustin Harrison and Bruce Triplett, in an aircraft. Another soldier and a civilian contractor were wounded.
About a mile down the road, another smaller group of the militants fired on Camp Simba, a section of the adjacent Kenyan Navy base where U.S. forces are housed.
The reviews say security troops at the airfield were unprepared to respond to the attack and several never really engaged the insurgents. Instead, Marines at Camp Simba about a mile away responded first.
Manda Bay has been used for years by the U.S. military
The base at Manda Bay has been used for years by the U.S. military, but it only became a full-time airfield in 2016, with increased personnel, aircraft and operations.
According to the reviews, the military there never adjusted security to account for the expanded use since the base hadn't been attacked in 16 years.
As Kenyan and additional U.S. security forces responded, Al Shabab attacked again. During the counterattack one Marine and one Kenyan service member were wounded.
It took until midnight for the military to search the airfield and adjacent buildings before declaring the area secure.
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