Kenyan troops have set up new bases and restructured their presence in Somalia following a deadly militant attack on soldiers earlier this month that may have left some 100 people dead, the Daily Nation reported Wednesday. The move comes as African forces have vowed to continue supporting the Somali government in their battle against the al Qaeda affiliated al-Shabab group.
“There is a reason that took us to Somalia, which is to liberate and pacify those areas and the mission is still on," said Col. David Obonyo, a military spokesman, responding to speculation that Kenya might trim its presence. "We are in Somalia under [the African Union Mission in Somalia], which still has a mandate there, so we cannot just abandon responsibility.”
Kenyan forces pulled out from at least two military bases in the country, the BBC reported Tuesday, citing residents in the area. One of the two evacuated bases, el-Ade, was the target of the attack earlier this month. Al-Shabab reportedly took over the southern town of Badhadhe after the military’s retreat.
Kenya maintains about 4,000 troops in Somalia as part of a 22,000 soldier African Union force that is battling militants. The military has not officially announced how many soldiers were killed in the attack on the el-Ade base and an investigation is ongoing. Al-Shabab said it had killed around 100 Kenyan soldiers, but the insurgents are known to exaggerate casualties of their attacks.
The al Qaeda affiliated group has launched a violent insurgency against the Somali government since 2006. They rule over some rural areas and have fought in an effort to establish an Islamic state and drive out foreign forces from Somalia.
"We will fight them deep in their hideouts, we will smoke them out of their caves and we will follow to the end in honor of every drop of blood of our Kenyans,” Gen. Samson Mwathethe, Kenya's military chief, told reporters in a press statement following the attack. "Our resolve to combat terrorism remains."