NAIROBI – Kenyan security agencies have increased their alertness after the al-Shabaab terror group attacked African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) base in Middle Shabele region, southwest of Mogadishu, and killed at least ten peacekeepers.
According to witness accounts, two loud explosions believed to be car bombs hit the ATMIS military base hosting Burundi troops, followed by a heavy exchange of gunfire between the militants and Burundi troops.
Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in El Baraf on May 3.
Burundi state television said 25 other soldiers were wounded in the raid on a camp near the village of El Baraf in central Somalia, while 20 al-Shabaab terrorists were also killed.
The AU and troop-contributing countries such as Burundi, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia typically do not release casualty numbers after attacks.
There are fears the group plans an attack on Kenya.
“We understand they may try to attack targets in Kenya after the end of Ramadan and following rains that have been experienced in the northern parts,” said an official aware of the plans.
The official said they had increased surveillance at the main border as part of efforts to tame the plans by the terror group.
Further, they are using intelligence to monitor the gang’s activities locally and in Somalia.
“We know the trend, and we are informed there are movements towards the border hence the alertness.”
More roadblocks have also been mounted on major roads in the region to address the fears.
Last week, Kenya Defence Forces boss Gen Robert Kibochi met with Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley at the Pentagon.
The two military leaders discussed matters of mutual interest, notably expanding counter-terrorism cooperation.
Kenya and the US share a bilateral defence relationship and will continue to work together on security matters to counter the threat of violent extremist organizations.
Somalia is preparing to hold a long-delayed presidential election on May 15, and political rivalries have split the security services, distracting them from the fight against the al-Shabaab insurgency and sometimes spilling into gun battles between rival factions.
The AU has fought many bloody battles against al-Shabaab since it arrived in Somalia at the end of 2007.
In turn, al-Shabaab has launched deadly attacks not just in Somalia but within the region, killing hundreds of civilians in Kenya and Uganda.
Chairperson of the Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat condemned the terrorist attack on Burundi soldiers.
“The Chairperson further calls on the international community to increase support to the Somali security services and the ATMIS mission commensurate with the security challenges at hand, “ he said.
Sources: The Star