Al-Shabab militants had overrun an African Union military base outside the southern Somali town of el-Adde and killed more than 60 Kenyan soldiers.
Sheikh Abdulaziz Abu Muscab, a spokesman for the Shabab, said the group had killed 63 Kenyan soldiers and took control of the base and had seized ammunition and military vehicles.
Residents described what appeared to be a suicide car bombing, followed by a ferocious firefight that lasted at least five hours. They confirmed that al-Shabab had raised its flag at a camp for Kenyan troops and have seen insurgents parading bodies through the town.
The Daily Nation, a newspaper in Nairobi, Kenya, quoted a Kenyan military spokesman, David Obonyo, as saying that it was a Somali National Army camp that was overrun, not the African Union base.
“Shabab attacked the SNA. camp, which is in close proximity to the KDF camp at El-Adde,” Mr. Obonyo said. “The SNA. camp was overrun and KDF troops under Amisom counterattacked in support of SNA. The fighting is still going on. KDF will provide more information once it becomes available.”
But Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, after confirming the death of many of his soldiers said, “Some of our patriots in uniform paid the ultimate price.” He described their loss as “heartbreaking.”
President Kenyatta said Kenya will not be cowed and that KDF will remain in Somalia to complete its mission of eliminating the militant group.
“We will hunt down the criminals involved in today’s events. Our soldiers’ blood will not be shed in vain,” he said, with out revealing the number of casualties.
Residents in the surrounding region of Gedo said that they had seen Kenyan military jets conducting airstrikes in the area after an assault by Shabab fighters.
“They have taken over the base and the village, and nobody knows the whereabouts of the K.D.F. at the base,” a resident of Garbahaarrey, the capital of the Gedo region said in a phone interview, referring to the Kenyan Defense Forces. “This is a disaster unfolding, which is threatening to our peace.”
Shabab militant group has increasingly targeting Kenya, which intervened in Somalia in 2011 in support of the government and the African Union peacekeeping mission. It was behind an assault on a Nairobi shopping mall in September 2013 that killed 67 people and an attack on a university in Garissa, in northeastern Kenya, in April, that killed 147 people.
Shabab fighters also killed dozens of Burundian forces in June and Ugandan soldiers in September in attacks on African Union bases outside the Somali capital, Mogadishu.