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Exclusive: AFRICOM Sends Top Brass to Kenya to Investigate al-Shabab Attack

FILE - An image distributed by al-Shabab after an attack on a military base in Kenya shows the militant group's flag, said to be at the Manda Bay Airfield in Manda, Lamu, Kenya, Jan. 5, 2020.

The commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has ordered an investigation into the al-Shabab attack this week that killed three Americans, dispatching two of his top generals Thursday to Manda Bay, Kenya.

"I want ground truth to assess the situation and hear from the troops to ensure they have what they need to accomplish their mission,” AFRICOM commander U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend said.

U.S. Africa Command said that U.S. Army Major General Michael Turello, the commander who oversees operations in the Horn of Africa, and U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Leonard Kosinski, the command’s director of logistics, visited Camp Simba base and Manda Bay Airfield on Thursday with the command’s top senior enlisted leader and an investigating officer.

Three U.S. Department of Defense personnel, including one U.S. soldier, were killed Sunday when fewer than 20 al-Shabab fighters assaulted the Manda Bay Airfield, which is used by Kenyan and U.S. counterterrorism forces.

Manda Bay Kenya
Manda Bay Kenya

U.S. and Kenyan forces repelled the attack after using indirect and small-arms fire for about an hour, according to an AFRICOM official. The Kenya Defense Forces said in a statement that five attackers were killed.

An East Africa Response Force of between 50 and 100 troops arrived Sunday at the Manda Bay Airfield to augment security, according to officials.

Manda Bay is used by U.S. forces to train African partner forces, respond to crises and protect U.S. interests in the region.

The attack came days after al-Shabab fighters killed three people on a passenger bus in Lamu County. The Somalia-based militant group was also responsible for a massive explosion in Mogadishu that killed more than 80 people.

"Al-Shabab is ruthless and must be dealt with,” Townsend said.

Al-Shabab has launched several attacks inside Kenya, including assaults on schools and shopping malls.

U.S. airstrikes in Somalia targeting the al-Qaida affiliate have drastically increased during President Donald Trump’s administration.