In the early morning hours on May 14th, elements of the Kenyan Defense Force’s (KDF) elite Special Forces Counter-terror Unit (CTU) raided a base camp suspected of belonging to the Somalia-based terrorist group Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen. The raid was a ‘revenge operation’ after a KDF convoy was struck by an improvised explosive device patrolling the Garissa/Hulugho road. Members of the KDF Special Forces CTU swiftly descended upon the unsuspecting jihadists, cornering the majority in the village of Haamey, situated along the Somalia/Kenya border. A rolling gunfight ensued between the assault force and the al-Shabaab militants. Shell casings and pools of blood were scattered throughout the village as the Kenyan Special Forces CTU chased the militants like dogs, gunning down 40 al-Shabaab fighters in the process, leaving the bodies where they fell.
Since the attack on Garissa University in April 2015, where 148 students were targeted by al-Shabaab militants and killed with utter impunity just for being ‘non-Muslim,’ Kenya has made good on its promise to aggressively respond to the attack and has ramped up its military presence at key points along its border with Somalia. Last month, the government of Kenya offered the terrorist group a 10-day amnesty period during which disillusioned al-Shabaab fighters who trained and fought with the terror group could turn themselves in to security offices in and around Nairobi, Mombasa, and Garissa, where they would be taken into custody and, after intense questioning, be assigned to ‘education and integration’ facilities designed to streamline their successful reintegration into Kenyan society.
The turnout and subsequent intelligence gleaned from the interviews in those first 10 days were so successful that Kenyan intelligence officials requested an additional 14 days be added to their amnesty program’s timeline. Still, the warning from Kenya and Somalia never wavered: Once the latest amnesty period was over, both countries would begin ‘mop-up operations’ to rout the remaining elements of al-Shabaab from their respective borders.
Kenyan Special Forces counterterrorism units have since moved out to Kenyan military outposts and forward operating bases along the border of Somalia in anticipation of the upcoming offensive with orders to ‘intercept and decommission’ Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen. The KDF Special Forces, once established in their forward operation bases, took their marching orders and wasted no time. They conducted several raids resulting in huge success; dozens of al-Shabaab operatives were detained and questioned, which helped thwart a potential dual suicide-bomber attack suspected to be targeting the citizens of the northern Kenyan city of Wajir.
Al-Shabaab has been so destabilized that most of their attacks are focusing on easier ‘soft targets’. Their attacks against non-Muslims have resulted in barbaric mass casualties that have been splashed across the front pages of media outlets, exposing al-Shabaab’s murderous ways globally. Shabaab seems to be taking pages out of ISIS’ social media playbook as well, and has recently shifted its propaganda machine into overdrive. Postings on various jihad forums and blog sites have attempted to reopen dialog and recruitment of foreign fighters to the cause, something the leader of al-Shabaab, Ahmed Diriye, was vehemently against in the past. Their latest attempts to strike fear into the non-Muslim population in western Kenya has included disseminating leaflets warning the citizens and government of a “long and gruesome war” in which the streets will “run red with blood.”
The leaflet went on to also proclaim that “no amount of precaution or safety measures will be able to guarantee your safety, thwart another attack, or prevent another bloodbath from occurring in your cities.” That same day, al-Shabaab fighters attacked a KDF Army convoy with a guerrilla ‘hit-and-run’ ambush shortly after the unit left its barracks in the city of Garissa to patrol the main arterial passage known as the Garissa-Hulugho Road. The attack was initiated by an improvised explosive device (IED) followed by a fury of small-arms fire. The KDF suffered only three wounded and a destroyed armored personnel vehicle. The terrorists fled into the surrounding rural countryside amidst the confusion.
The next day, elements of the KDF’s elite Special Forces CTU forward deployed to a base in Liboi, Kenya, which lies within striking distance of Somalia’s al-Shabaab-controlled southern regions. They launched an assault into the austere frontier-like environs of western Kenya against a suspected al-Shabaab stronghold in the village of Haamey, 40 kilometers southeast of the Somali border. With vengeance on their minds, the elite KDF Special Forces assault was violent and swift, displacing the al-Shabaab fighters and forcing them to either stand and fight or flee for their lives. A rolling gunfight ensued as the KDF Special Forces chased al-Shabaab throughout the village, dropping jihadists as they went and eventually cornering the ones who failed to escape.
Bodies of 26 al-Shabaab lay all over the sun-baked dirt roads of Haamey. It seemed like none of the al-Shabaab fighters that escaped did so unscathed. The violence of action inflicted upon them was overwhelming; most Shabaab fighters died in place or left with bullet holes, leaking blood. More bodies were found in the woods and surrounding areas where the terrorists, lacking proper medical care, succumbed to their wounds. The unofficial final number of enemy dead: 40.
The raid on Haamey was the first of many for the Kenyan military and KDF Special Forces, who just showed the world and al-Shabaab that the gloves are off and southern Somalia will be their hunting and killing fields. Al-Shabaab is wholly unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with this kind of sustained fighting. This most recent raid reaffirms that al-Shabaab is wholly unprepared and drastically outgunned. The al-Shabaab network will pay a heavy price in the coming months and they know it. The organization is now so desperate for fighters to continue the jihad, it’s been forced to recruit foreigners and Somalis in diaspora worldwide.
With their supplies, and now numbers, dwindling, Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen seems to have been pushed into a corner like a feral animal. Now the hard question remains: How many innocent lives will this terrorist group take with them in their desperate attempt to maintain relevance and control of what little parcel of land they have left?
(Featured image courtesy of aljazeera.com)